Here’s the keynote talk I did at Render Conference, Oxford in April. (Slides.)
All the other talks are available. Yay!
I told the nice organising types that I wouldn’t accept the speaker fee because public speaking is my job. Rather than just pocket the money, they suggested we donate it to a worthy cause, which is very good of them.
So I asked them to send it to a rural school in Cambodia, where a friend of mine has been volunteering. They’re building a computer lab to train kids and the local people. In one of the poorest countries on earth (average salary is $80/ month) a second hand laptop at $250 is still a luxury. As someone who was a primary teacher in Bangkok, this ticks all my personal boxes: education, S.E. Asia and the web.
Thank you, Ruth and all at Render Conference.
At the Google Progressive Web Apps afterparty last night, I had two very different conversations within five minutes of each other.
Conversation #1 went
Hey Bruce, lucky you weren’t at REDACTED conference last week. They were bad mouthing Opera! One speaker said, “Anyway, who cares about Opera Mini?”
In the time it took to drink another 5 bottles of free beer (two minutes), conversation #2 happened:
Oh Bruce, hi. We’ve just raised £100million in funding for our business in Asia, and 35% of our users are on Opera Mini.
What’s the difference? Well, for a start, one was apparently said by a European designer to a room full of European designers, in Europe. The second is the word “users”: the second conversation focussed on the fact that a technology is used by human beings, which is always, always the point.
Now, I don’t care about Opera Mini per se (I’m not its Product Manager). In the same way, I don’t care about walking sticks, wheelchairs, mobility scooters or guide dogs. But I care deeply about people who use enabling technologies — and Opera Mini is an enabling technology. It allows people on feature phones, low-powered smartphones, people in low-bandwidth areas, people with very small data plans, people who are roaming (you?) to connect to the web.
I ran the stats today. Of more than 250 million Opera Mini users, 50% are on Android/iOS and 50% are on feature phones. The second group almost certainly have no choice in which browser to use to get a full web experience. That’s 125 million people that designer-on-stage doesn’t care about. People like Donald from Nigeria, people like Silma from Bangladesh. People.
The top territories for Opera Mini use are India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa. Because conversation #2 was about tangible stuff – millions of pounds, and numbers, let’s look at the economic growth of these nations full of interlopers to our WWW (Wealthy Western Web).
(PPP= Gross Domestic Product per Capita, figures from CIA World Fact Book)
Sure, those PPP numbers might be low compared with the home countries of designer-on-a-stage and audience, but how do the growth rates compare? These are dynamic, emerging markets. Who cared about China ten years ago?
If you don’t care about Opera Mini users in these areas, you can bet your competitors soon will.
I’ve had a few tweets, DMs and emails asking about the proposed buy-out of Opera by a Chinese consortium. Here are some answers to your questions (none of this is new; it’s publicly available in Lars’ statements to the press and Opera’s consumer blogs, but I know that many of you are techies who won’t necessarily read those). I apologise for not getting back to you earlier; the news broke on my last day of a press tour of India and I only got back yesterday.
Firstly, it’s not a done deal. An offer has been made, and Opera’s board has recommended that shareholders accept it. But shareholders need to vote and governments need to be consulted.
If the deal goes through, the shareholders change (because current shareholders would sell their shares to the Chinese consortium) but, as Nuno Sitima (Opera’s Lord of Mobile Stuff) wrote,
the people behind Opera remain the same. The same teams will be developing and delivering the [products].
Many of you asked why we’re doing this. It gives Opera access to 500 million Chinese customers of the consortium, and investment to grow bigger. I am not a Biz Guy so I’ll just quote the press release:
The transaction would give Opera access to the extensive internet user base of Kunlun and Qihoo in China as well as the financing and other support of the Consortium that would allow for the full potential of the Company to be realized.
Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve had Opera customers ask about the security and privacy of their data. The answer is simple, and reassuring (I hope):
Assuming the deal goes through (see first point above), Opera plans to continue operating as a stand-alone company (see Nuno’s quote above). We are a Norwegian company subject to Norwegian (EU/EEA) privacy laws. Our shareholders may change but our legal obligations in this respect will not. All data will continue to be handled in accordance with our Norwegian legal obligations — nothing changes in this respect.
(And, yes, I remain employed; thanks to all of you who asked after me personally and offered me other jobs. But, honestly, despite still looking great in a mankini, my pole-dancing days are behind me.)