Remember when the only cryptocurrency anyone cared about was Bitcoin and the coolest thing you could buy with it were socks made from alpaca hair? Now there's a bunch of cryptocurrencies with more debuting all the time, and you can buy far more than just fuzzy footwear. Opera wants to make it easier to make those purchases from your phone with a new version of its Android browser with a built-in crypto wallet.
The company, which also offers web browsers for Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems, didn't exactly think outside the box when it came to naming this new browser--it's called Opera with Crypto Wallet. It's available now as a private beta on Android, and even though Opera plans to expand the offering to other Android users in the future, it's not clear when the company will bring the cryptowallet-supporting version of its browser to other platforms, or it even plans to do so at all.
Opera worked to appeal to cryptocurrency newcomers and regular users alike. Opera with Crypto Wallet stores all information on the device to keep users' funds safe, uses Android's built-in authentication mechanisms to spare people from having to remember a password or PIN and supports multiple cryptocurrencies to appeal to as many people as possible. It's probably not perfect--especially as a beta--but it is ambitious.
Opera Crypto product lead Charles Hamel shared some of the company's ambitions in a statement accompanying the announcement of Opera with Crypto Wallet:
“We believe the web of today will be the interface to the decentralized web of tomorrow,” he said. “By becoming the the first major browser to open up to Web 3.0, we would like to contribute to making the internet of the future more accessible. Our hope is that this will accelerate the transition of cryptocurrencies from speculation and investment to being used for actual payments and transactions in our users’ daily lives.”
Opera might actually have been too ambitious, though. The company's blog page (opens in new tab) has been down for several days, making the original announcement for Opera with Crypto Wallet unavailable almost since it was published (that post had more information than the official press release). The page where you could sign up for the private beta also showed us a 404 error. We contacted Opera to learn more about the situation but haven't heard back.
However, running into a few stumbling blocks on the road to making it easy to buy things with cryptocurrencies is not surprising. Companies like Apple are still trying to figure out how to simplify paying for things online with a credit card. Doing the same thing for Bitcoin, Ethereum, or any of the other cryptocurrencies that have popped up will take time. At least Opera is willing to tackle the problem at this early stage.