Opera Unite launched overnight. A browser with a built-in web server, and some services like file, photo and media sharing, chat, and a web server, Unite is touted as a game changing “reinvention” of the web. The idea is that instead of uploading your photos to Flickr to share, for example, you’ll simply send the URL for your local PC to friends and family, and they’ll be able to view your photos directly.
Opera Unite is straightforward to set up. Simply visit Opera Labs, download the appropriate build, and run the setup program. Once installed, it’s straightforward to run services as well. Open Opera, press the “Panels” button on the top left side, and then choose the Opera Unite tab about half way down. At that point, you can start up any service you like, and start sharing your content.
It’s pretty foolproof. Opera Unite knows about UPnP, so if you have any recent model router, it has no trouble punching through firewalls. Plus, the URL it creates is pretty easy for users as well. For example, my photos are located at http://quad.asaunders.operaunite.com/photo_sharing/. I dropped some snaps taken over the weekend at the Medieval Festival in there. My “Fridge” (something like a Facebook “Wall”) is located at http://quad.asaunders.operaunite.com/fridge/. Try it if you’d like. Drop by and leave me a note.
Opera have done a good job. Any dummy can set up and run a local server and services. Embedding a server inside the browser is a great benefit for web developers. They may just flock to this, because it’s a whole lot simpler than setting up a real web server. It certainly will be a quick way to share a file or two as well, if you happen to have Opera installed on your PC.
As much as the Opera team might wish otherwise, however, Opera Unite is not a “revolutionary new technology” that will “reinvent the web” by “democratizing the cloud”. Why? The vast majority of PC users do things like turn PC’s off at night, or shut down browsers when they’re not using them. I know I certainly shut down the browser. That makes the services I might offer to my friends and family using Opera Unite transient, and that is the problem with embedding the web server in the browser. A server should properly run as a service, not as a widget in the browser. That way it’s always available so long as the PC is turned on.
Perhaps the most interesting scenarios might be the ones in Opera’s traditional stronghold – the mobile browser. Cheap and cheerful file sharing, photo sharing and media sharing tools have never been done well in this environment. And imagine the potential social networking scenarios possible with a portable “wall” or “fridge” in an environment like a bar.
Your comments welcome.
P.S. Kudos to the Opera PR team. Whoever came up with that gem “democratizing the cloud” deserves a pat on the back.