Norway-based Opera Ltd — the maker of the Opera Internet browser, ranked as one of the top five in the U.S. by usage — is one company trying to ready itself to remain relevant in a so-called Web 3.0 decentralized future.
Interestingly, it has chosen Southeast Asia to test its ideas.
Opera, which currently has an average of over 350 million active users according to its website, is one of several centralized Internet browsers looking to incorporate features for a Web3 world. Web3 means different things depending on whom you ask, but the underlying premise is individual users, or stakeholders, will take back more control and value from the centralized technology giants that currently rule the Internet.
Opera’s approach is to provide a browser that integrates with an array of so-called Web3 services. These include a decentralized exchange (Dex) for peer-to-peer trading of cryptocurrencies as well as decentralized applications, or dApps, that offer gaming, social media or financial services through a blockchain — all controlled through a non-custodial wallet, or a wallet to which the individual user owns the access keys, not a centralized company.
“The Web3 ecosystem is still nascent, but its potential for growth is truly massive,” Susie Batt, Crypto Ecosystem Lead at Opera, told Forkast in an email, likening Web3’s current stage of development to the early days of the internet before there was widespread realization of the transformative impact it would have.
The Norwegian company is partnering on its Web3 plans with Vietnam-based decentralized finance (DeFi) platform Coin98, which says on its website it has more than 2 million users.
Choosing Southeast Asia could be argued as an obvious choice, as Vietnam and Thailand trail just the U.S. in second and third spot in terms of global DeFi adoption, according to Chainalysis’ Global DeFi Adoption Index published in October last year. The region was also the epicenter of the play-to-earn craze that swept the crypto industry in 2021 with the runaway success of Axie Infinity.
“Southeast Asia was a natural choice,” Batt said. “As it stands today, it is one of the most active and thriving regions when it comes to mass adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.”
Web3 proponents envision a decentralized internet where users control their own personal data and have the option of using digital currencies to support Web3 initiatives and projects, effectively gaining a community stakeholder say in developments.
“But to reap all these benefits, mass adoption of Web3 is required,” Batt added. “This is why it’s important to onboard users today.”
Some Internet users already have access to and use Web3 applications, such as non-custodial cryptocurrency wallets like MetaMask, so it may not seem like a big deal to be integrating them into browsers.
But crypto natives familiar with such tools are still a small minority in the overall world of the Internet and the blockchain space needs to do much more to improve the user experience, said Luke Mulks, vice president of Business Operations at Brave Software, developer of the Brave web browser, which comes with an embedded crypto wallet for its more than 50 million active monthly users.
Users typically have to hop between different apps and “once you’ve done that, you’ve lost somebody already,” Mulks said.
“A lot of [our] focus has been on how can we really easily get people to fund their wallets?” Mulks said. “And then once they have funds in their wallets, [then] like here’s this new world of Web3 that we can start to introduce them to,” he said.
“One important thing for developers, especially when they’re looking at Web three, is to make sure that we’re not creating a better monster than the one we’re trying to get away from with Web two and traditional models,” Mulks added.
Brave on that front said it sifted through a lot of user research into what people want and runs extensive ad blockers on its browser. It also developed its own private advertising model, known as Brave Rewards, that users can opt in to see specific ads and earn a crypto known as Basic Attention Token, or BAT. The token can also be used by users to reward projects they support.
Batt at Opera repeated a refrain often heard about Web3, that it will offer multiple opportunities to innovate and disrupt and “the same goes for every other aspect of our online presence such as privacy,” she said.
“Ultimately, Web3 will level the playing field for everyone, allowing users to choose services and conditions that fit their needs best — while enabling a fair competitive environment for builders to create such platforms in the first place.”