If you thought the browser wars had calmed down for the moment, then think again. Today, one heck of an interesting publicity stunt is making waves across the Internet, as Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner donned a wetsuit and dipped into the icy waters of the North Atlantic for one heck of a swim.

You see, apparently the CEO made a wager last week that if 1 million Internet surfers downloaded copies of his company's Opera 8 browser for use in surfing the Web within four days, then he would swim the icy waters from Norway to the U.S., with one stop in Iceland for Mum's hot cocoa. That public statement appears to have done the trick -- the downloading exceeded 1 million.

Of course, it's a drop in the bucket compared with the much-publicized 1-million-download mark for another Internet browser, Mozilla's Firefox, which was achieved in a mere 24 hours -- fired up, so to speak, by the well-known grassroots marketing campaign known as Spread Firefox. (Here at the Fool, we've talked about that movement here and here.)

What with Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer security issues in recent history, many Internet users have fled to other options such as Firefox, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari, or Opera (though Opera always seemed a bit like the dark horse in the running -- maybe not quite so much at the moment, as it's drumming up more attention). Meanwhile, there were rumors last year that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) was cooking up some sort of gbrowser in its labs.

Publicity stunts are funny, though, seeing how, if executed properly, they can get a whole lot more attention than price cuts, high-priced marketing campaigns, and in some cases, maybe even quality of product. However, Opera's made some clever parallels: "Opera 8: Speed, Security, Simplicity. Opera's CEO: Speedos, Shrinkage, Spoke-too-soon-icity."

Checking out the buzz on the Web, many people opine that this is one heck of a big joke (check out the particulars here), and, of course, the reality of the situation is that a trans-Atlantic swim is something that professional swimmers would consider a real achievement, so coming from an untrained techie CEO, it seems downright outlandish given the fact that yes, it's uh, a really, really long way, for him and for his PR manager, who is allegedly floating alongside him in an inflatable raft.

And, of course, there are always lines like, "After struggling with the wetsuit for more than an hour," ". the closest thing Jon has ever come to swimming was in the hot springs in Iceland when he was a kid, and those aren't even 3 feet deep," and manned with "inspirational quotes from the Viking sagas" -- wow, that's some good stuff for anybody with a case of the Mondays.

Regardless of how far he gets, there's a good dose of Google-like humor, the upstart spunkiness exhibited by Firefox, and maybe a sprinkling of the rebellious derring-do often exhibited by Virgin's leader Richard Branson. How much of a dent Microsoft's Internet Explorer's market share faces from the exploits of the little guys remains to be seen, but the Internet sure has gotten fun again. Talk about giving Web surfing a whole new watery connotation.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She routinely browses the Web using Firefox and Safari.