By the way this marks browser innovation as dead. Let's see where browsers go from here.
Opera served their idea under slogan a Web server on the Web browser. Now how fast can you appreciate idea of running server as part of your browser? Took me some minutes.
For comparison Google presented their Wave project under slogan if email was invented today.
Feel the difference? Anyone would be interested in better email, but few are interested in running local server. And core question - does web server in browser make browser better?
Unite is actually standalone technology that (ab)uses browser as delivery platform.
Reinventing the web.
Running server locally is nothing new. Skim my blog only and you will find posts on how to run locally servers for HTTP, FTP, Direct Connect, UPnP and I can (and probably will) easily churn out few more on torrent and such.
Comparing to that Opera Unite is:
- much easier to use;
- much less powerful;
- roughly equal in being toy for techies (at start?).
To change the web it lacks novelty and more importantly leverage.
Opera Unite is going to be embedded in future versions of Opera browser. It allows to serve content from your local computer to Internet and host Services (think rich web pages) with different functions.
It is mashup of several existing technologies:
- HTTP server;
- Opera widget API, extended and co-branded as Unite Services;
- my.Opera.com for account;
- UPnP and proxy for connectivity.
- Opera widgets never got much love or adoption, at my work in office packed full of Opera users there is not a single widget in sight;
- it is relatively open scheme but you still need proprietary account (shocking :) ) and locked in Opera online ecosystem.
- file-sharing – absolutely yes but on small scale. Demand for simple and efficient file sharing is huge. Whenever I put file in HFS or Dropbox and give direct link in IM people are often dead envious. Still there are heavy reasons for so many online services (RapidShare, etc) and specialized protocols (FTP, torrent) to exist and Unite can't replace either.
- collaboration – possibly. There are numerous approaches to this. Will be decided by API, sandboxed environment and if they will be enough for good and popular implementation.
- social network – not happening. Many seem to perceive personal focus of Unite as basis for social-type platform. Imagine platform where you are neither visible or contactable when your browser is closed. There is no server component to Unite. It might integrate existing social networks but cannot become one.
- contact point – possibly. Some instant messengers have live chat feature and I can see Unite acting as one. Being online is needed for real time conversation anyway and running it locally might be more flexible and customizable than third party services.
- synchronization and cloud – Unite is anti-cloud. It is completely unfit for synchronization unless it will be extended to work with some kind of online storage.
- something my brain is too small to imagine – possibly. Can you think of anything not mentioned?
It is indicative how Unite steps sideways from browser functionality. By the way so does Firefox with numerous extensions that often have little to do with web. So does Chrome that puts performance with online apps before local features.
I believe that modern browser war is decided not by features but by marketing. There is no place left for browsers to evolve as browsers except in performance. And while performance is important frankly it became routine and expected.
So while Google took de-featuring approach with Chrome – Opera seems to look for an edge in building web services on local base, skipping need for own cloud and online services portfolio.
It is a given and beneficial that useful browser innovations are copied by competition. However Unite is browser feature like none before. Would other browsers be bold enough to pillage it?
- direct implementation – even if Unite will be open enough to create compatible server code I believe no other browser will openly adopt specialized and branded protocols from competitor. Marketing hit will be too heavy.
- idea implementation – easily possible but it is questionable who of developers will see same benefits and come to same conclusions as Opera Software.
- in Internet Explorer – would be nothing short of awesome but sadly not happening. Microsoft has bit too much trouble even keeping simple browser bundled, not even mentioning constant struggle to patch holes in it.
- in Firefox - attempt(s) will sure be made, either official or third party. Will it take off is another matter.
- in Chrome – not happening. Google is pro-cloud, Unite is antagonist to that.
- in Safari – who cares.
Opera Unite is boldest move in years for browser niche. It throws out of the window what browsers are supposed to do, as well as trend of cloud adoption. It is also completely risk free for developers and only takes little commitment of providing APIs and hosting for Unite Services, that will be mostly developed by willing third parties.
It is far from game changer but it is truly brilliant move that can still reap a lot. Move not by Opera browser but by Opera Software. As expected from I guess.