We’re about to tell the story of two internet pioneers and how their fortunes have changed. One you may not have heard of but one you definitely have.
Our first story is about the formerly Norwegian based web browser known as Opera. You may have never used Opera as a browser but it’s been around since 1995 and has been an innovator in the browser space since then. Think about some of the breakthroughs in browser features over the past decade and a half, chances are that it was a feature on Opera first. Do you remember when tabs on browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer first became a killer feature? Opera did it first among many other innovations such as including an encrypted VPN service built into the browser. While Opera didn’t have the largest market share, it did have one of the most loyal userbases on the internet. Now, more than likely, that userbase will begin to evaporate since the Opera name and browser assets have been bought by a Chinese consortium called Qihoo 360. Opera had a reputation as being one of the more secure web browsers, but now with the browser being owned by a Chinese company one has to wonder how much influence the normally invasive Chinese government will have when it comes to the security aspects of the browser. Former Opera devotees may want to try the Vivaldi browser as it’s been made by former Opera developers.
Our second story comes from an internet behemoth that most of us would be hard pressed to remember a time without it. Yahoo has been around since 1994 and was Google before Google was. It not only offered one of the internet’s first reliable search engines and free web mail, but also provided news and game portals along with many of its chat services. Yahoo was unrivaled in popularity for many years until an upstart of a company called Google started eating its lunch. Google did a lot of what Yahoo did but much, much better. How many of us couldn’t wait to jump ship to GMail from Yahoo Mail once the GMail invites started going out? Yahoo then started emulating Google by acquiring more properties to add to their portfolio. The names read like a Who’s Who of internet history in Geocities, Delicious, Flickr and Tumblr. By most accounts Yahoo has failed to capitalize on most of those properties, and even shuttered poor Geocities. While Yahoo does have some successful properties, like their sports and finance divisions, the company has been hemorrhaging money for years. Even Yahoo has seen the writing on the wall. What was once the most visited website in the world is now a husk of its former self and is offering itself, either whole or piecemeal to several financial suitors including Verizon, who already owns AOL, and AT&T.
The moral of this story is, it doesn’t matter how ubiquitous or how enduring an internet property can be, like the empires of yore they can always fall. In a not too distant future we could all be reminiscing about how we all used to be on Facebook before it was replaced by an even better service, or how many people used to use that ‘other’ online classifieds before it collapsed under the weight of its own criminal element.
As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change, and while it may not happen overnight it will happen. Just ask MySpace.