Howard, who at the age of 19 was earning in excess of $200,000 at the Australian offices of McKinsey and Co while still a student, developed Fastmail because he identified the need for users to take their email on the road using familiar POP like email clients.
In his early years, Howard ran the Fastmail email business from a rented apartment in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Port Melbourne, while simultaneously running another software business he developed involved with the insurance industry.
For a $40 per year subscription, Fastmail users could get a limited data allocation and an account that enabled them to use a web-based client which could be synchronised with their desktop client of choice.
At the time, Howard told this writer that he was making a lot more money from his insurance software than Fastmail but there was little doubt that Howard seemed more at ease with the shorts and flip flop lifestyle of a dot com entrepreneur than that of suit and tie attired insurance software business tycoon.
The advent of Gmail, with massive free data allocations of 1GB and more, limited the growth of Fastmail but it still maintained a loyal band of users around the world.
Since the release of Opera 4 in 2000, Opera's desktop browser has included its own innovative e-mail client. Following this acquisition, Opera will be able to offer a consistent e-mail experience across all products. Opera currently has more than 50 million users of its desktop browser and more than 55 million users of Opera Mini, a mobile Web browser that works on almost all handsets available today.
"The newest generation of Web users will discover the Web through a mobile device. Having world-class messaging capability alongside a rich and compelling Web experience is essential. By combining forces, Opera and FastMail.fm can offer messaging on any device. This will enhance the value Opera provides to consumers, while assisting our operator partners in reducing customer churn," says Rolf Assev, Chief Strategy Officer, Opera Software.
Opera currently has about 1% of the global browser market and focuses on creating niches in the mobile browsing space and appealing to users by offering what it claims is the fastest and most responsive browsing experience.