What a Difference Marketing Makes: Opera Triples Downloads with Browser Ballot

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 04, 2010

Since early this week, when Microsoft started rolling out its "Browser Ballot," Opera has seen its downloads triple in response. You can bet that the other browsers, including open source powerhouse Firefox and upstart Chrome, are also getting their fair share as well. Maybe they could help leverage this for other "alternative" applications as well.

According to the Reuters story, Opera is affirming a surge in downloads after the ballot rolled out on Monday. Now that users are aware of their choices, more are picking to download other browsers:

"It varies from country to country, but yes, in several major countries, Opera downloads have tripled since the ballot screen appeared," said Rolf Assev, the chief strategy officer for the Norwegian browser maker. Opera specifically cited surges in downloads in Belgium, France, Spain, Poland and the U.K.

Assev said the swell of downloads was above and beyond the increase caused by the final release of Opera 10.5 for Windows yesterday. "We compared the downloads against previous launches, such as Opera 10.0, 10.10 and 9.5, and the tripling is above what we would normally expect with a new version launch," he said.

No doubt, having what effectively amounts to a free ad popping up on millions of Windows machines is going to give any competing application a good shot at picking up new users. The question is, how can we do more of the same for open source applications that aren't being supported by a European Union ruling?

Perhaps the browser vendors could lead the way themselves. Every browser has a default start page, which usually leads to the vendor's home page or some kind of welcome screen. Maybe Google, Opera, and Mozilla could do other alternative vendors a solid and include links to OpenOffice.org or Ubuntu, or to Pidgin and The GIMP, and let users know they have a choice of more than Web browsers.

The browser ballot shows that if consumers know they have a choice, they're likely to exercise it. Many users stick with IE only because it's what came with the computer and they don't know to go looking for something else. The browser ballot could have farther reaching effects than just the browser market, if the vendors help leverage their position to benefit other projects. While Opera isn't open source, the company certainly has nothing to lose in helping to promote open source. Google has a vested interest in promoting open source projects, and it seems perfectly natural for Mozilla to help fellow projects out.

Estimates say that the ballot will be shown on more than 100 million computers via Windows Update. It's not clear yet how many users will opt to switch, but if they can be swayed to switch from IE, they might just be interested in moving to OpenOffice.org or other open source applications (or operating systems) as well. It'd be great if the browser backers could return the favor and show some love to other projects.