If Facebook were to acquire Opera, the independent mobile and desktop web browser, it would help Facebook build its own mobile phone.Every smartphone needs a strong browser, and Opera—which is strong in developing markets like Brazil and India—is a decent independent product. (Those markets are also where Facebook will get its future growth from; and Opera also serves plenty of ads on mobile phones already.)
But few have noticed how such an acquisition would connect Facebook with Apple and its iAd mobile ad serving system.
Opera, through its mobile ad exchange AdMarvel, serves iAds to premium publishers. It’s one of the only third-party advertising services that is allowed access to the platform.
Opera got that relationship because premium publishers—CBS, Bloomberg and Fox, for instance—didn’t want to do business with Apple unless they were allowed to do it via Opera/AdMarvel. Silva described it this way in 2011: “Apple’s official policy is that if you want an iAd, you have to have a commercial relationship with Apple and you have to have a direct call to Apple – with the exception of us.”
Nihal Mehta, CEO of LocaResponse, tells us, “AdMarvel will help Facebook draw traffic and serve mobile ads through this device.” Mehta’s opinion is worth listening to because he was an investor in Admob, the mobile advertising service bought by Google. He also knows Gokul Rajaram, the Facebook’s director/product management, who is in charge of developing Facebook’s mobile ad strategy.
“I think that’s smart,” Mehta says of a potential Facebook-Opera hookup.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment.
On the face of it, it looks like Facebook would have an even closer relationship with Apple if it bought Opera thanks to Admarvel. But, if history is any guide, Facebook buying Opera to build its own smartphone will just drive a wedge between their fledgling relationship.
Apple hates Google because of Android. It will hate Facebook because of a Facebook phone.
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