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16.06.09 | First impression: Opera Unite
Filed under: Computer — Tags: , , , , , , — Dr. Ivan @ 19:10 — Comments (9)

Here are my 5 cents on the newest addition to the Opera web browser.

So, yes, Opera Unite was announced today. According to the company itself this is a revolutionary way of integrating a web/media server, file/photo sharing and communication with the internet browser.

And according to me it is nothing too new, although I do have to admire the efforts and the level of commitment of folks at Opera.

What we are basically looking at here is an easy and integrated way to get access to contents of your computer from anywhere over the net. This still implies that you leave your home computer on to be able to serve the contents, and in the case of Opera Unite you also leave your browser running.

So, may be I have totally missed the point, but to a certain degree I fail to see the innovation. I absolutely agree that this is a very convenient model of operation: You have a computer running at home and have access to it from anywhere in the world over the net. Sounds wonderful, but as far as I know such ideas have existed, and indeed have been used, for a long time. I myself am a frequent user of such model and have been for several years. It makes synchronization absolete – and as far as I am concerned, that is a good thing (my thoughts on the subject).

That being said, after having tried Opera Unite I am impressed with how fast you are able to setup both file sharing, server environment as well as several other bells and whistles Opera provides with this service: It took me exactly 3 minutes to get up and running. And this is perhaps the most important aspect for many: It lowers the threshold for a not-so-computer-savvy individual to try such concepts as serving her or his own web site or constant over-the-net connectivity and file sharing, all of which may have been seen as distant and complex in the past.

Of course as such, this easy-to-use software component suffers from a limited array of  configuration options and features, among others PHP support which at the moment is entirely lacking. Nonetheless you do have to take into consideration that this still is in an alpha stage and that features will be implemented as development progresses.

But the main “feature” of Opera Unite is undoubtedly its integration with the Opera Web Browser. Despite being aware of the reasons for this, both the social aspect, promotional value as well as ease-of-use, I am unsure about the necessity of such integration. For me it implies a certain loss of flexibility – although others may see it differently.

The bottom line is that despite the somewhat failed attempt at real innovation, I do believe that this may have a future potential and am really looking forward to seeing where Opera will go with this.

PS. I am more than pleased to see Opera shipping binaries for x86-64 from the beginning.

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  1. avatar

    I think that many people are missing the point of this technology. Yes, you can share stuff pretty easily now, but it comes with a cost.

    Imagine Facebook, myspace, Google Calendar, etc, where no one (but you and your friends) can access your data. No more data mining from the host companies. No more concern that your posted photos or blog posts become the property of some large corporation at some point in the future when their Terms of Service change. No DMCA takedown notice when you share a video of your kid who happens to have a song playing on the radio in the background. Your stuff always remains in your possession and not posted on some web host somewhere with changing motives.

    I think that we have become complacent in the fact that companies like Google owns our data and that we “trust” that they will always do the right thing.

    While Opera’s Unite’s current security model is weak, it will probably strengthen with time. When it adds better password support and encryption, this will change the web as we know it.

    Yes, this is a step in the right direction.

    Comment by Bradison — 17/06/2009 @ 14:42

  2. avatar

    Bradison, thank you for taking time to leave a comment!

    I think you perhaps have misunderstood my point. I was trying to point out that all of the possibilities Opera Unite is advertising are already available today: in one form or another.

    For example: The simplest way to share is to set up a http/ftp server on your own machine with restricted permissions. This achieves exactly what you are outlining in your comment: You can freely grant permissions to any of your friends to browse and download the contents you want to share with them. The contents is stored locally and hosted from your machine: There will be no take-downs due to hypothetical copyright violations.

    Heck, why stop there? Create a forum for you and your pals (no need for Opera Unite’s Fridge)! It will be hosted from your computer, and you will be able to post whatever you desire and adjust who is able to read it. You can even implement a live chat only accessible by you and your friends: No need to send the information through Microsoft’s MSN servers…

    What I am trying to say is that all this can be done in a much more flexible way than Opera Unite, exactly because it all is implemented and set up by you. All software you need is already freely available: Apache for web servers, WordPress for blogs, PHPbb for forums etc etc.

    This will also be the more secure alternative.

    As far as I can see, there are basically two reasons why people do not take advantage of these readily available options. First, far from everyone is aware that this is possible; and second – and probably most important – is that because of the endless flexibility it also requires greater technical skill. As I outlined in my article – reducing the complexity and catering to the average computer user is by far the best feature of Opera Unite.

    Therefore, I am much looking forward to future versions of Opera Unite – even though I was not nearly enough impressed with it to convert to such solution right away (and no wonder: it still is in alpha!).

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 17/06/2009 @ 16:58

  3. avatar

    I think we basically agree on this, but to make things a little clearer…

    My mom uses facebook, but can’t setup an FTP server. She can install a browser plugin though. Opera Unite is not geared for the geeks out there (like me) who can do this stuff now. It’s about downloading a plugin and creating your own facebook network with your friends. Or FTP server or shared calendar or private YouTube, etc.

    It will be as easy as existing services, but you keep your data private. Or open it up to the public if you want to.

    Trust me on this. I have my own private Instant Messaging network and there are only 3 people signed up. It was not trivial to install. Technology like Unite will allow everyone to setup there own networks with minimal effort.

    Hey, I’m not an Opera fanboy. I don’t use it, but I can see the possibilities in this technology.

    Comment by Bradison — 17/06/2009 @ 20:07

  4. avatar

    Indeed, we do agree on this :)

    Another aspect which I do really appreciate in the case of Opera Unite is the centralization of services. User may get easy access to music, files, chat/messaging etc – all through one service.

    Well, we’ll just have to wait and see where Opera goes from here. Their mobile browser is widely adopted (also by yours truly), so who knows? Perhaps this will be the next big thing after twitter.

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 17/06/2009 @ 21:11

  5. avatar

    The true power of Unite will be uncovered only after more apps are developed for it. Now people are just talking about file sharing , photo sharing etc. But remember Opera Unite is not an application, it is development platform for applications and thats what is interesting. Think about online p2p gaming like facebook apps in the browser. Thats sounds interesting isn’t it ??

    Comment by vinaya surya — 19/06/2009 @ 07:58

  6. avatar

    I have been looking looking around for this kind of information. Will you post some more in future? I’ll be grateful if you will.

    Comment by KonstantinMiller — 06/07/2009 @ 19:34

  7. avatar

    Thank you for taking time to comment!

    @vinaya surya: That is a valid point, although I am not sure why we need such platform. The only positive side of this that I can see is the fact that it will be a little easier to install and manage games that way.

    But besides that, it all yet again begs the question of: Why? Will this new dev platform give you any other advantages over traditional game design? I think that the only new aspect it will introduce is a new form of overhead which will pretty much prevent you running anything but simple games resembling casual flash games. That’s fine – there is definitely an audience for simple easy-to-pick-up games out there; but again, there is nothing revolutionary about that. We’ve seen many casual games up until now, without any need for Opera Unite. If you want to play something off the net, why not pick up one of the billions of games already available and coded in Flash? Certainly Unite can’t compete with that. Also, I still fail to see why p2p games should be integrated into browsers at this point at all.

    @KonstantinMiller: Absolutely! I already have a couple of apps and some hardware I wish to express my feelings about. I do have to admit that I have a very busy schedule. Nonetheless, the reviews are coming – so stay tuned!

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 06/07/2009 @ 21:47

  8. avatar

    Greatings, Onload of page my antivirus put alert, check pls.

    Comment by Pett — 07/07/2009 @ 11:09

  9. avatar

    Im sure many of you are like me and one of the first things you do in the morning is head here and check out the new post. Along with seeing the new posts, I’m also always checking out the blog roll rss feed and watching them grow, or shrink sometimes. In one of my past …but all in all excellent site. Keep it up!

    Comment by kempozone — 11/10/2009 @ 15:57

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