YouTube Gains Ground Along With Opera Mini

opera_mini_logoMuch of the increased uptake on the wireless web is being credited to Apple’s iPhone, but Opera continues to make impressive gains with its Mini browser. In particular, users are increasingly tuning in to YouTube via Opera Mini.

The Norwegian developer said today that 29.1 million people used Opera Mini in July, marking an almost 10 percent rise over June figures and a 145 percent increase over July 2008. Page views increased more than 15 percent from the previous month, topping the 12 billion-mark, and more than doubling the number from July 2008. Predictably, data consumption through Mini in the most recent month increased at similar rates — to 187 million MB dowloaded.

Interestingly, Opera Mini — which has gained strong traction in emerging markets — is increasingly finding an audience in the U.S. The browser’s number of unique users has grown more than 60 percent in the last year, making the U.S. Opera’s seventh-best market for Mini. (While Mini is pre-installed on some handsets, the figure represents only people who have actively downloaded the browser.)

But I was surprised to see how little change there was in the top 10 destinations for U.S. mobile web surfers through Opera Mini over the past year. Google, MySpace and Facebook were the top three mobile sites both last year and this year (Facebook replaced MySpace at the second spot in the most recent findings); other holdovers include Yahoo, Wikipedia and the New York Times.

The site I’m keeping an eye on is YouTube. Google’s mobile video channel is slowly accruing consumers in the U.S., inching up from Opera Mini’s ninth most-popular site last summer to No. 6 in Opera’s latest report; the site finished in the top 10 of about a dozen other markets as well. YouTube also fared well last fall in a Nielsen survey of mobile web usage, nearly tripling its audience in a year. And while Opera Mini users are increasingly watching YouTube, the release of the iPhone 3G S has helped to “exponentially” expand the site’s offerings by enabling users of the device to upload directly from their handsets.

I’ve long been skeptical of mobile video broadcasts that try to replicate traditional TV programming on a mobile phone — especially when those services are offered at a premium — but there’s strong evidence that a vast amount of demand exists for mobile Internet video. Stay tuned to Opera’s monthly reports to see how YouTube fares in coming months.