The little browser that could … was how the Opera browser was often referred to around 1996-98. The best browser packed with innovative features that Internet Explorer and Firefox were forced to copy: tabbed browsing, popup-blockers, saved sessions, zooming, mouse gestures to name a few. The fastest browser that did everything out-of-the box that Firefox could only match with add-ons. Except that things soon turned upside-down: the need for extensions was no longer seen a disadvantage, the extensive ecosystem pumping out add-ons for every imaginable purpose became Firefox’s main advantage. In the meantime Opera proved it’s not easy to sell a product for $ against free competitors: it never really took off, continuing to hover around 2% market-share forever.
Today Opera proves again they are innovators: they claim to “reinvent the web” with the launch of Opera Unite:
…new technology that shakes up the old client-server computing model of the Web. Opera Unite turns any computer into both a client and a server, allowing it to interact with and serve content to other computers directly across the Web, without the need for third-party servers.
Opera Unite comes with a starter kit of basic (rudimentary) services to share documents, photos, music or to chat with peers, and it’s clearly aimed at more, from multi-player games to collaborating in a spreadsheet…etc. The platform comes with a set of APIs, and Opera encourages developers to create their own applications as part of Opera Unite services.
Impressive as it is, I am not sure this is “reinventing the web”. I have geek friends who run their own web server, and they will probably like it (hey I even know a masochist who not only builds his own computers but takes his car apart just to understand it..). But will this go mainstream? Here’s a telling quote from Lawrence Eng @ Opera Labs:
People who create and share content will never approach true empowerment online until the computers they use are actually part of the Internet. Currently, most of us contribute content to the Web (for example by putting our personal information on social networking sites, uploading photos to Flickr, or maybe publishing blog posts), but we don’t contribute to its fabric — the underlying infrastructure that defines the online landscape that we inhabit.
Do you really want to contribute to the underlying infrastructure of the Net? Opera says this is about taking our freedom back, but to me freedom means not having to worry about infrastructure at all. In fact Software as a Service means not having to worry about software at all, just enjoy the benefits. I guess that makes me an end-user, vs. geek developer.
The device you were trying to access (quad.asaunders.operaunite.com) does not seem to be available.
asaunders does not seem to be running any services at the moment.
Perhaps his computer is shut down, or just went in sleep mode, or he may just have shut the browser down. You see, you can’t run a web server like a home PC. It has to be available 24×7, you have manage it, back it up…etc. By the way, it better not be a lightweight netbook – in fact if you want to host your server, you’ll need to re-join the arms race and get bigger, better, faster hardware all the time.
Oh, and there is the small issue of bandwidth. I can see the huge internal network traffic when someone in the family looks at photos from another computer – but that’s a home network – do you want to incur such traffic every single time someone looks at a pic, or are you better off uploading them once and forget about bandwidth forever? Most of us have assymetrical bandwidth with upload speeds far below the download speeds, in fact most ISP’s explicitly forbid running a web server, unless you pay a higher-tier business rate.
All criticism aside, Opera Unite is an intriguing concept that will no doubt appeal to geeky techno-savvy users, developers – just not end-users. Care to guess which represents a bigger market?
I guess Opera enjoys the innovative niche player role. Oh, and one more thing: I kinda wonder why they use CRTs in this cheeky freedom-figther commercial:
- Taking the Web into our own hands, one computer at a time
- Opera ‘reinvents the Web'; Will anyone notice?
- Opera “Reinvents the Web” with Unite, Makes Every Computer a Server
- That Reinvention Of The Web Thing Opera Was Talking About? It’s Called Opera Unite
- Opera Unite: Should Hosts Be Worried?
- Thoughts on Opera Unite