Six Questions About Opera Unite

By  |  Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 9:46 am

Opera LogoBoy, Opera sure has turned the hype knob to 11 for its Unite technology, which puts a Web server inside Opera 11. It’s not just that it keeps talking about how Unite will reinvent the Web. I just watched a Webcast in which Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner said that Unite is an example not of Web 3.0 or Web 4.0, but of Web 5.0. Um, setting the bar that high seems dangerous–Unite could be quite remarkable, and still fail to match the expectations that Opera is setting up.

Right now, Unite is a technical preview. It’s fun to play with. But tinkering with it and watching Opera’s Webcast has left me with plenty of questions about it. Six of ’em after the jump…

1. Does it make sense to use a computer that’s not on 24/7 as a server? Unite lets me share photos via my laptop, but my laptop is turned off much of the time. If friends or family attempt to check out my pictures when Unite isn’t up and running, they’ll get a nasty error message. It reminds me of the very early days of computer BBSes, when you couldn’t connect to someone’s system if he or she was using the PC that ran the BBS for something else.

2. Will developers hop on board? The first Unite apps are all pretty basic, and do things which are easy enough to accomplish by other means. What’s interesting about Unite is its potential. But will developers seize the opportunity to build interesting Unite applications? Especially since Opera’s share of the browser market remains small?

3. Are the URLs too long? Ones for Unite’s media player, for instance, are in the form Which is quite a mouthful. And they’re longer if you’ve password-protected them.

4. How’s the performance? You can do things like putting your music collection on the Web for anyone who wants to listen to it. Which sounds like it might bog down your computer and bandwidth.

5. Is the security good enough? The company didn’t say much about security on the Webcast other than that you can password-protect Unite services. But does putting a server with access to your file system on your computer open you up to more risk of hacking?

6. Will it be influential? Most of the most important features that have ever been introduced by one Web browser have been shamelessly copied by all the other ones. Is Unite the first sign that all browsers will turn into servers? Does it make sense for only one browser to do this?

I don’t mean to sound dismissive–in my first post about Unite, I called it a big idea, and that it is. But it’s a big idea in a fairly rudimentary state, and if I were Opera, I’d quit with the claims about this its introduction being an important moment in world history and concentrate on making it into a useful tool rather than an interesting technology demo.


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Chad Says:

    This is crazy. I don’t want these features in any browser. They belong in the OS. Right click on My Pictures or My Videos folder and set my web sharing properties. Did I miss something? Or do they plan on taking MS to the EU when they will undoubtedly add those features?

  2. riveryacht Says:

    Tonido did this 3 months back. Check out

  3. TurboBorland Says:

    This is scary to say the least. I will not be telling anyone to use this nor any of my clients. Just a bad bad bad idea having your browser have easy access to your filesystem remotely.

  4. Ken Says:

    Although Opera is calling this a “server in your browser”, I don’t think that it will be used truly as a server. I suspect that the real beauty of Opera Unite is in its ability to by used as a peer-to-peer exchange method. I also wonder if this technology might be useful for communication-suppresive regimes…
    In any case, Arve spent a good part of yesterday discussing the details of Opera Unite, including in particular security concerns, at There’s some 640 comments now, but within the first 50 or so you start to get an idea of what is planned.
    And of course, don’t forget that this is in mega-alpha phase…

  5. Ken Says:

    Hmmm, doesn’t look like technologizer allows hyperlinks (or I entered it wrong). Here’s the “raw” link for those wanting to read the reddit post:

  6. Joe Says:

    There is a firefox plugin, which does similar things for years (since 2007) called pow:

    Fully programmable with Javascript, PHP, etc.

  7. Chris Says:

    It’s not about your computer being switched on, but about your presence in the internet/network. We are heading to time oh http peer2peer network and Unite can be a milestone for it. What’s more if you port Unite to your mobile/netbook which is switched on all the time…

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