Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Opera Unite: an attempt to democratize the Web even further

Very neat article in Ars Technica the other day, about Opera Unite -- a new service that's built into the new version of the Opera Web browser.

The high concept is fairly straightforward: the browser is, itself, now a simplified web server. Once you enable it, you can turn on various plugins -- file sharing, notes, chat and so on. The resulting website is exposed via Opera's proxy servers. (That is, your website shows up as "http://mymachine.myname.operaunite.com/" -- when someone goes to that, Opera's servers talk to your machine to fetch the actual request. A bit inefficient and slow, but it deals with some common end-user-access problems that are hard to solve otherwise.)

The techies in the audience are probably going to react to this with a great yawn: there's nothing here that can't be done *far* more powerfully if you have half a clue. But the essence of their idea is, I suspect, that it's an order of magnitude easier to deal with, especially if you *don't* have a clue. Unlike a website you set up at a conventional end-user ISP, you're using largely your own resources, and plug in your own apps arbitrarily (?? -- remains to be seen how good the API for this is), but it requires only a minimum of technical knowledge to do so.

It's a somewhat audacious gamble, and we'll see how it pays off, but it's quite a neat idea. I've always felt that the fully-distributed model was an ideal for the Web, and I find the ISP-based model of websites somewhat confining and annoying. Something like this, that lets every machine be a webserver, is much closer to that ideal. So I wish them luck. I can see all sorts of problems, ranging from security (doing this without massive security risks is hard, to say the least) to cable companies trying to mess with it (on the "your contract says you can't run a web server" argument) to simply not being enough of an improvement for anybody to care. But I'll be crossing my fingers for them, and keeping an eye out for this...
Tags: technology

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