Opera buys Skyfire browser that brought Flash video to iOS

By , Feb 15, 2013

Back in March 2011, when Adobe’s proprietary Flash plug-in was still predominantly used for web video, a new paid-for iPhone browser, Skyfire, made headlines. It helped alleviate the situation by detecting Flash-encoded clips on web pages and then tapping a cloud computing platform to translate Flash video into an iPad-friendly format, on the fly.

Since then, Skyfire has seen over 20 million downloads across iOS and Android devices and developers claim it now converts over 200,000 web sites with Flash video into an iOS-friendly format. While most of web video is delivered via HTML5 these days, the Skyfire iOS app has seen several major updates that over time brought social features, even built-in extensions, to the table.

In a surprising move, Norway-based Opera Software, which makes the multi-platform Opera browser, Friday said it acquired the Skyfire team, hoping to broaden its solutions “beyond the browser”

The deal should close before March 15.

The iPhone ($2.99) and iPad ($4.99) builds of Skyfire are still available on the App Store.

If you’re a fan, worry not: Opera promised that Skyfire, now a wholly-owned subsidiary, will remain an independent entity and Opera “will continue to develop and support the Skyfire browser”.

SkyFire 5.1 for iOS (iPad screenshot 001)

Just yesterday, Opera passed 300 million active monthly users and stunned watchers by dropping own Presto web rendering platform and replacing it with WebKit, the popular open-source rendering engine.

SkyFire 5.1 for iOS (iPad screenshot 002)

“The WebKit engine is already very good, and we aim to take part in making it even better. It supports the standards we care about, and it has the performance we need,” Opera CTO Håkon Wium Lie explained.

Just recently, we learned Opera is set to release a brand new new WebKit-based iPhone browser later this month. Called Opera Ice, it won’t replace the existing Opera Mini iOS app which will continue to be developed.

WebKit is commonly used by Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome and now Opera, but not by Mozilla whose Firefox uses the proprietary Gecko layout engine.

SkyFire 5.1 for iOS (iPad screenshot 003)

In fact, lack of WebKit support combined with Apple’s policy regarding proprietary frameworks has prevented Mozilla from bringing Firefox to iOS (unlike Opera, which maintains an iOS version of the Opera Mini web browser.

A media release states Opera bought Skyfire for its Horizon and Rocket Optimizer technologies.

According to Skyfire, the Horizon tech offers a scrollable user interface with a number of toolbar extensions that can be added to the browser, or customized by consumers.

A contextual engine ensures the toolbar content is relevant and useful – with contextual recommendations on apps and browser utilities.

With one-click access to news feeds and one-click sharing of content via Facebook, Twitter and other communities, combined with community and friend recommendations, Skyfire’s Horizon browser extension platform drives engagement with fresh content on the web like never before.

As for the Rocket Optimizer software, it’s being used by over a hundred carriers to reduce the size of video and other multimedia to fit the available bandwidth, resulting in a 60 percent boost in capacity. It detects when your connection quality drops and intervenes in milliseconds.

SkyFire 5.1 for iOS (iPad screenshot 004)

Skyfire’s bandwidth optimization tech is a nice fit for Opera Software because its Opera Mini app also uses the cloud to compress data by up to 90 percent before downloading, promising to improve page loading times sixfold, especially when on slower or crowded networks.

Video is expected to consume over two-thirds of global mobile bandwidth by 2015, with one survey estimating iOS accounting for 60 percent of all mobile video.

So, do you use the Opera Mini or the Skyfire browser on iOS?

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  • EpicFacepalm

    Puffin is definitely better…

    • disqusted

      …because— ? I know nothing about it other than I’ve heard the name before. Want to finish your opinion with at least a reason or two to justify your ostensibly worthless comment?

      • notewar

        U mad bra?

      • disqusted

        I’m not mad at all– I just wanted more info on the app other than his opinion of it. He could put that violent anus sex is awesome… that’s his right. Some might be curious as to why he feels this way. That’s all. Mad, though? No, that’d be pretty stupid to get “angry” over such a thing.

      • EpicFacepalm

        First, I don’t have to explain why. That is my opinion, which is relative. It seems like many other readers think like me as you can see they have upvoted my comment. For the reason, Skyfire fails most of the time, lags a bit too. And the UI is ugly. While, I’m not a fan of Puffin’s UI, it’s really better than Skyfire’s. Other than those, Puffin is rapid fast, because it uses a proxy, a server renders the site and sends the image to your iDevice. Finally, you can even play Flash games with Puffin, even some of the non-touchscreen games. Before I forget, you can also use goddamn internet and search for it (it’s highly effective!), before making a worthless comment to my “worthless” comment! We are in the 21st century, you know?

      • disqusted

        Thank you for the extra information. It’s not so much that I can’t find the “features” of the app– it’s more so that I was curious *which* of those features you found valuable or interesting… something which I might overlook in simply browsing through them, myself. In essence, I was implying your comment is worthless without the extra information that you’ve now provided. You must understand that if I found your opinion to be worthless, as I did the original comment; I never would have asked you to elaborate– right? I value your opinion, thus why I asked for you to share more than “it’s better”… just to put things into perspective for you. Notice there was a distinction between the worthlessness of your “comment” and that of your “opinion”. Sorry. Didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers… (Get it? Puffin? Feathers? — Yes, I’m intentionally making a ridiculously corny joke to lighten the whole deal).

  • jose castro

    yea skyfire sucks at flash videos.. puffin definitely better..

  • Falk M.

    “While most of web video is delivered via HTML5 these days”

    In the way of Wikipedia let me say: Citation needed.

    • disqusted

      Well, where are 70% (a completely arbitrary, made up statistical figure) of the videos online coming from? YouTube, likely… part of the HTML 5 standard is that it supports embed tags that allow video to be rendered and played natively, not reliant on having a plugin installed like Flash Player or *shudder* Real Player. Embedded videos are to be encoded based on the H.264 codec, in either WebM or MPEG-4 container formats, right? As far as I know, YouTube began re-encoding its archives from FLV to MPEG-4 format years ago. Any new videos uploaded since then have defaulted to the HTML 5 compatible MPEG-4 container with H.264 video stream in the mux. I’ve not seen a video on YouTube that wasn’t in MPEG-4 format in years. That’s my “self-reference” citation. :)

  • Tom

    Firefox is better

    • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

      Yes because we can totally download Firefox on our iPhones and iPads right? -___- smh

    • Voice of Treason

      Derp.