Big splash for Opera?

The goal for version 8: a million downloads in four days. The cost of hitting that goal: one very wet CEO.

The chief executive officer of Opera Software has said he will swim from Norway to the United States if 1 million copies of the company's latest browser are downloaded within four days.

At a company meeting in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday, Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera, said the company's servers were feeling the strain after thousands of requests for the latest version of Opera's browser.

Carsten Fischer, a vice president at the company, said that the demand for Opera version 8, which was released on Tuesday, had "exceeded our wildest dreams."

"A lot of people had great difficulties downloading Opera 8 on Tuesday because the traffic on the servers was simply too high," Fischer said. "When download numbers reached 120 per second one hour after the release, our servers had serious problems dealing with all the requests. We had prepared for heavy traffic, but this exceeded our wildest dreams."

The Mozilla Foundation's free Firefox browser, which was launched late last year, saw an estimated 2.5 million downloads in just two days. Two months earlier, the first preview release had reached the 1 million mark within five days.

To help satisfy the demand, Opera has added additional servers and increased its capacity. In the first 48 hours after its release, the browser was downloaded about 600,000 times, the company said.

Anne Stavnes, human resources manager at Opera, joked that she was more worried about the CEO appearing in his swimsuit than his swimming ability.

"I am not sure he realizes how cold the Norwegian Sea is in April," she said. "However, having seen Jon in his red beach attire before, I am not sure if swimming to the USA is scarier than exposing people to this sight."

The four-day deadline falls on Saturday, but Opera says it won't reveal the download numbers until Monday.

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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