Opera, the popular web browser, has launched an instant messaging platform in its mobile browser (Opera Mini) in Kenya. The messaging service, called Hype, is embedded into the browser and will see users being able to chat, share and surf the web in one application.
“Chat services and browsers are apps people use every day and feel very personal about. With the integration of Hype in Opera Mini, we are not only rethinking what a chat service should be like in 2021, but also changing the very definition of what a mobile browser should be.”Charles Hamel, Product Lead for Hype
Hype, much like all the other messaging apps, is coming out of the box with end-to-end encryption. Users will be able to set up accounts, chat and share content much like all the other internet-based chat applications like WhatsApp.
Is this something to get excited about?
Well… Yes, even though Opera is launching Hype in Kenya first, this is big. Opera is used by more than 100 million people worldwide and it has a litany of interesting features like an AI aggregated local news feed, offline sharing, free music with Mdundo which puts it on par and in some respects over other web browsers.
But the most defining feature about Opera Mini is data-saving. This function has seen it being widely adopted in emerging markets where almost everyone is on a paid mobile-data package.
So… why would Hype take off in Zim?
However, Opera has some history in Zimbabwe and that could give Hype a glimmer of hope.
Opera Mini was once the most used mobile browser in Zimbabwe
Back in 2013, Opera Mini was the most used mobile browser in the country. It led the way with a 90.76% share of the market followed behind (by some distance) by Nokia’s Browser with 4.6% and UC Browser in third place.
This might be ancient history to some and news to those who weren’t of internet using age at the time. But Opera is easily recognised by many and in 2021 is the second most used mobile browser in the country with a 16.6% share of the market according to StatCounter. Chrome is, unsurprisingly, in first place with 61.24% of the mobile browser market share as of January 2021.
With Opera Mini still having a decent footprint in Zimbabwe, Hype might not be that much of a hard sell. People are still using it because of Opera Mini for its data-saving abilities, even if browsing on it is out-of-bundle. I wouldn’t put it past many to try out Hype when its around and I’m pretty sure one MNO might consider reintroducing the Opera bundle
Econet and Opera go way back
The country’s largest mobile network operator, Econet used to offer Opera bundles way back when:
If Hype does make its way to Zim and with Opera Mini still commanding a reasonable amount of the market. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Econet could toy with the idea if bringing this back.
Now in saying that, bundles aren’t the answer to everything but are the way most Zimbabweans partition off data usage. They are a sad consequence of the economic environment which makes the prospects of affordable data near impossible.
Till we get to a stage where the MNOs can balance the books, bundles aren’t going anywhere. However, MNOs could offer Zimbabweans the option of unified bundles where you can buy an instant messenger bundle that covers WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal (as well as Hype if it comes to these parts).
Subscribers should be afforded the liberty to select the application(s) they want to use within a class of apps. It is unacceptable that people will say or think “I can’t use that app because my carrier doesn’t have a bundle for it” in 2021, worse still if the MNO has a bundle for another app in the same category.