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Opera Cuts Jobs, Prepping for Skyfire and WebKit
Opera Cuts Jobs, Prepping for Skyfire and WebKit

By Barry Levine
February 18, 2013 4:40PM

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Makers of the Opera web browser say downsizing will help the company focus on products related to its recent purchase of Skyfire Labs, which could help drive Opera's growth. The mobile market is one of the few promising arenas for browser growth and Skyfire's Rocket Optimizer leverages cloud computing for efficiency over mobile networks.

Browser maker Opera Software is in the midst of big changes. In the wake of its purchase of mobility solutions provider SkyFire for $155 million, Opera has now revealed that it cut nearly 10 percent of its workforce last quarter.

At the end of December, Norway-based Opera Software had 931 employees, according to its financial report. Of that total, 91 were "employees associated with the organization restructuring."

A week ago, Opera announced that it was discontinuing its in-house Presto browser engine, and instead using the open source WebKit, as Google and Apple do for their browsers. As a result, not as many engineers and others related to the Presto effort were needed, resulting in a downsizing from 931 fulltimers to 840. Even so, Opera added about 70 employees in 2012.

Opera said that many of those whose jobs were discontinued left voluntarily, and received severance packages. Reportedly, about half of the 91 positions were software developers, and the others worked in marketing and sales.

'Sad Day for the Web'

While Opera's move to WebKit may have made sense to the company, there have been some expressions of disappointment in the browser community.

The Mozilla Foundation's Robert O'Callahan described the move on his blog as "a sad day for the Web," since he thought highly of the company's work on the Presto engine and related Web standards. O'Callahan expressed that the latest changes could lead to a lack of diversity for browser engines, especially for mobile browsers.

Yet, Opera's management is positioning its downsizing efforts as healthy, saying the company can now focus its resources on developing and improving other products.

The company, now in its 18th year, claims that 300 million people use its Web browsers each month, and it is expected to make several announcements at the Mobile World Congress, which opens next week in Barcelona.

The Skyfire Acquisition

Opera is also starting the process of assimilating its acquisition of Silicon Valley based Skyfire Labs, which was announced February 15. Skyfire is a leading provider of mobile video optimization technology and cloud solutions for mobility, and also produces the Skyfire mobile browser.

All three of those prizes could drive Opera's growth and help justify the $155 million acquisition cost. The mobile market is one of the few promising arenas for browser growth, and Skyfire's Rocket Optimizer technology leverages cloud computing to deliver video and other multimedia content more efficiently over mobile networks.

Skyfire has said that Rocket offers a 60 percent boost in capacity, achieved by reducing a video stream's size. The technology is also capable of modifying start times, buffering and stalls when it has determined that a user is experiencing poor delivery conditions.

Additionally, Skyfire's Horizon browser extension offers a toolbar platform for user personalization, as well as a new venue for advertising opportunities. Opera, whose products include a pay-per-use data plan called Web Pass that it intends to expand, is expected to build on Skyfire's relationships with mobile carriers.

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