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Follow-up on Opera Unite: What it is, why it is, and what it is not

17 June 2009 by J.M.

Opera Yesterday I presented Opera Unite to you, an add-on in the latest Opera 10 builds enabling you to use your web browser as server. After my post, I received some opinions about Opera Unite. Let me quote one of these statements, a quite hard conclusion:

I might be wrong, but to me it's another ‘company’ trying to make something never thought of before, that isn't going to make it, and it doesn't looks secure at all. I don’t see Opera Unite getting anywhere.

I mean, Opera is used by 1 to 3% of all the people online? And they really think that they can pull this off? More importantly, with that small sized company with no serious skills will be able to secure files etc? It's just one big joke.

Today, Lawrence Eng, product analyst at Opera, talks about some details on what Opera Unite is designed for, why it was invented, and what it is not.

We don’t hate social networks and big-server computing. The point I tried to convey is that users should have a choice–freedom to decide how and where their data resides and is used. In some circumstances, they may choose Facebook or Flickr, but in other (equally legitimate) circumstances, they may choose to host it themselves. Opera Unite is our way of removing people’s reliance on the big datacenter solution, not because big servers are necessarily bad, but because they’re not enough.

Millions of people are comfortable with other people hosting their data, but there are also plenty of people who aren’t so comfortable, either because it’s a hassle, hard to use, or because of privacy concerns. I share photos online (Flickr, Facebook, and My Opera) but that doesn’t mean I want to share all of my “stupid digital photos” on the public web. Just today, I used Opera Unite to share some content with close friends that I wouldn’t necessarily want to put on Facebook, Flickr, etc.

When possible (depending on one’s router and the design of particular Unite services), Opera Unite supports UPnP (enabled by default) so that users can bypass Opera’s proxy service. Even when that proxy service is used, the data that passes through it is not stored by Opera.

At the end of the day, Opera Unite is still a work in progress, and we need informed, critical voices as well as enthusiastic ones to make it all work. Your feedback has been valuable, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to clarify some issues (even if some points of disagreement persist). People have always counted Opera out, but the company has been around for 15 years, and we’re going stronger than ever on multiple fronts (including the desktop). We did make ambitious statements about Opera Unite, and big claims paint a target on our back, but we think it’s better to aim high and not give up, even if we stumble a little out of the gate. Maybe I’m just an idealistic American, but I think the best is yet to come.

Did you have a look at Opera Unite yet?

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