Opera Was the Original Browser... For the iPhone?!

Opera, the admirable yet often un-admired cross-platform web browser alternative to Internet Explorer on the PC, Safari on the Mac, and Firefox pretty much everywhere, was considered by Apple to be the original baked-in surfing standard for the iPhone?

Huhbuwha?

That's pretty much what we thought too, though Valleywag stands behind the story:

Before the first iPhone was released, Apple wanted Opera to build the browser for the iPhone, says a source. Negotiations dragged on for six months, the sticking point being exclusivity — Apple wanted it, but Opera was unwilling to commit, seeing a larger market for licensing its proprietary software to multiple handset manufacturers.

Valleywag says, if true, Opera made a huge miscalculation, give the iPhone's unprecedented mobile browsing market share. We say... shenanigans! Unless we're talking history so ancient Bill Gates was floating overhead at Macworld announcing IE as the default Apple browser, this just doesn't seem logical, reasonable, or rational.

As any longtime reader of this site knows, the iPhone started life as a tablet concept device called... (wait for it...) Safari Pad. Pretty big clue right there in the name as to what browser Apple was leaning towards, wouldn't you say? (We would).

Likewise, Apple was willing to throw away devote resources to a Windows version of Safari, never mind Steve Jobs' near totalitarian approach to keeping things in the Apple ecosystem (after having been burned one to many times by licensed technology).

Stranger bedfellows have tech made (see IE on Mac, above) but we're filing this one under EPIC NO! for now...

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 5 comments. Add yours.

frog says:

It would be fair to say Safari mobile does appear to act and look an awful lot like Opera.

mr. Hi Definition says:

Well, well, that's pretty interesting. Opera rejected Apple... I bet they wish they didn't do that now. I'm glad they did though, Mobile Safari is the best mobile browser out.

Stephen says:

This is ridiculous. First off Valleywag does not have a rep for being even remotely accurate. Opera is NOT based on webkit that Safari and Mobile Safari are. Opera Mobile does not look or act like Mobile Safari as well as not sharing the same engine.
Next Apple had Safari running on the Mac for years and even Windows before the iPhone was a product. Do you really believe that Apple would release the iPhone without their own browser on it? Especially being that is was pushed as a huge selling point of the iPhone. I don't.
Reading Valleywag is like reading the tech version of the Globe or the Star that you find in your local supermarket, catchy headlines with little truth or facts.
Opera has less than .1 of the browser market and would have been in no position to turn anyone down. What is also funny is that several other mobile phones are looking at webkit to use as their mobile browser, even ones running on Windows Mobile.

eArTh says:

@stephen
I totally agree with you. It seems a little hard for me to believe that apple was looking to put opera on the iPhone. That wouldn't really fit in the whole apple ecosystem breakdown now would it.

MUW says:

@Stephen
Opera doesn't have just .1 percent market share. Its small, but not that small. I don't know how you got that .1% figure.
Plus, Opera agreeing to Apple would have been akin to making a deal with the devil as apple would have liked Opera not to distribute the browser to other phones. And tying yourself to just one phone is never a good idea.
I think Opera is helping much more people by being on a variety of phones. Plus acording to their mobile reports, Opera Mini is the worlds most popular mobile browser, so I guess its working out fine for opera as well.