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Is Facebook looking to buy Opera?

Things could be about to get even more interesting at Facebook HQ. The social networking giant is rumored to be eyeing a takeover of Norwegian mobile and desktop browsing company Opera.

Tech news site Pocket-lint cites a “man in the know” who says that the social networking giant is looking to expand into the browsing space in order to give it a fair go at the like of Google, Microsoft, and Apple who all have their own browsers.

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It says the browser would allow you to “keep up to date with your social life from in-built plug-ins and features on the menu bar”.

If true, then Google would probably be affected most, as it would be another field in which it’s competing with the social network.

The possibility comes shortly in the wake of Yahoo’s announcing the launch of Axis, its own mobile browser and desktop plugin.

At present Opera’s web browser is on the decline, and holds less than five percent of the browser market. In the mobile space, it’s been in a tug-of-war with Android’s native browser.

Corroborating the rumours is a source close to The Next Web who says that management at Opera Software, which currently trades on the Oslo Stock Market, is open to the idea of being part of a larger company and that it’s currently on a hiring freeze.

Facebook might also have a bigger play in mind here than launching just another browser> It could be aiming at OS glory.

Like Google, Facebook is an internet company through and through. Google realised that an Operating System (OS) didn’t have function on the same kind of model as Windows or Mac’s OS X, so it launched Chrome OS.

Chrome OS, which is of course based on Chrome — now the world’s most popular browser –, was built with the logic that people now “live in the browser” rather than on the desktop. That is, most computer users spend their time browsing and using web applications rather than working from their desktop. This migration has been accelerated by the onward march of broadband, innovations in code and the general efficiency of having centralised, cloud-based applications.

While Chrome OS might not have taken off quite as much Google might have hoped, an OS based on web apps does still seem inevitable.

One of the world’s first web browsers, Netscape, prematurely declared during the browser wars of the mid 90s that our desktop would be replaced by the browser, then throwing down the gauntlet to the mighty Microsoft.

If Facebook does decide to launch an OS, then Opera might not be all that bad a choice. The company doesn’t just build browsers, it also experience building a variety of add-ons, plugins, and widgets.

The fact that Facebook is so keen on punting its own apps, ensuring that you get as much as possible without ever having to leave the social network suggest that an OS might not be all that far-fetched.

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