Thoughts on Opera Unite

Opera UniteI met today’s news about Opera’s new initiative — called Unite — with a mix of shock and awe.

On the one hand, I was sickened by the lack of analysis from the echolalic blogger news corps. It appeared that Opera PR had successfully reached out to all of them, shoved a news release down their throats and waited to give them the go-ahead to regurgitate it on their blogs, using the same screenshots, same content, and differing only in the pithiness of their post titles.

Of course, I could have gotten the same depth of analysis from half a dozen tweets.

Maybe they long ago wrote off Opera and aren’t interested in providing any kind of depth of insight but whatever, who knows — the nouveau press corps blew it. Social media proves its vapidity once again.

But, I digress. I’ll tell you what I think, since there’s a lot in the details of Opera’s announcement that bear inspection, even if I’m the only one to do it.

I’m going to talk about six topics:

Let’s get to it.

What is Unite?

Like Flock before it (Disclaimer: okay, I’m just stroking my own ego here. Note to self: get over yourself), Opera is attempting to take advantage of the rise of social networking (the verb) and bake it into the browser, as a personal extension to one’s computing experience.

They accomplish this by embedding what amounts to a web server in the browser, and making it possible to share files, music and photos and to post notes or chat directly with your friends (or anyone who knows the URL to your account and in some cases, has the right password).

You can download an Opera Unite alpha build to try it yourself.

The Marketing Pitch

Opera Software

The marketing hype for Unite started recently, with a bright red page (above) hosted at opera.com/freedom. Of course this inspired a bit of buzz, and Kas Thomas from CMS Watch even guessed correctly what it was all about:

Folks, let me tell you what’s going to happen. I have a pretty strong hunch (but no inside info, I assure you) on this one. This is something I’ve thought about for years — it has needed to happen for years — and I’ll be thrilled if Opera pulls it off, although whether people will flock to adopt it is another question.

The answer is that Opera is going to embed a web server in itself.

When you fire up Opera, you’ll be operating a secure server and you will be able to serve all kinds of content (whatever you want, basically: bookmarks, contacts, cached content, arbitrary files from a roped-off area of your local storage, web pages of your own) to other Opera users, at the very least, and maybe all browser users, at the very most.

The mystery seems to have paid off, as Unite is topping Techmeme today.

They released a stylized video explaining Unite, remniscent of the Data Portability promotional video from several months ago:

What I find so fascinating about this marketing message is that it presumes that owning one’s own data and “connecting directly” with friends is somehow relevant to people — as though it’s a big problem that people have been complaining about for years, and that Opera has finally answered the call.

But I think they’re missing the big picture here — or intentionally obscuring it — which is that, while the idea of owning your own data may be attractive to neo-libertarians and open source geeks — most people really don’t care and are happy to outsource storage of their data to someone else who can be responsible for backing up their data and fending off hackers. 200 million Facebook users can’t be wrong, right?

People have embraced social networks because they make it easy to share and collaborate using the browser that they already have — and answering the question: “what do I do with all these stupid digital photos sitting idly on my harddrive?”

Let’s face it, bookmarks were pretty lame before we could peak over our friends’ shoulders at what they were reading.

So while Opera is right to seize on to the social networking meme, they’re doing so largely to increase the waning relevance of their browsernot to support freedom as they claim — especially at a time when Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari have entered the ring as the new twin contenders for the browser crown (even though no one knows what a “browser” is).

Furthermore, their whole pitch about owning your own data and disintermediating the large social networks will likely resonate much more with a European audience (i.e. one that would give 7.1% of their vote to the Pirate Party) than a mainstream, social network-obsessed American one.

If you consider how Lawrence Eng (Opera’s product analyst) puts Unite into context talking about “the Internet’s unfulfilled promise”, you’ll see what I mean:

Our computers are only dumb terminals connected to other computers (meaning servers) owned by other people — such as large corporations — who we depend upon to host our words, thoughts, and images. We depend on them to do it well and with our best interests at heart. We place our trust in these third parties, and we hope for the best, but as long as our own computers are not first class citizens on the Web, we are merely tenants, and hosting companies are the landlords of the Internet.

Social networking is important, but who owns it — the online real estate and all the content we share on it? How much control over our words, photos, and identities are we giving up by using someone else’s site for our personal information? How dependent have we become? I imagine that many of us would lose most of our personal contacts if our favorite Web mail services shut down without warning. Also, many of us maintain extensive friend networks on sites like MySpace and Facebook, and are, therefore, subject to their corporate decisions via “Terms of Service” and click-through agreements. Furthermore, what does it mean anyway to be connected to hundreds of our “closest” friends? What about our real social networks, the people we want to interact with on a regular basis (like once a week, or even every day)? Why are online solutions to help us with our real-world social needs so few and far between?

We are connected to a Web that has democratized much and is an amazing source of information. However, “the wisdom of the crowd,” along with the notion that our data ought to live on other people’s computers that we don’t control, has contributed to making the Internet more impersonal, anonymous, fragmented, and more about “the aggregate” than the individual. In fact, quite the opposite of the original promise. For too long, we’ve been going online to connect to each other, but sacrificing intimacy as a result.

With Opera Unite, I think we can start moving in a different direction.

Now, it might sound ironic coming from me that I think Opera was wrong to paint their pitch with the paint of libertarian ethos, but if they’re going to succeed, they have to go beyond “owning your own data” to talking about why owning your own data is better or easier. Philosophical rhetoric will only get you so far, as I’ve learned.

Speaking of…

Why isn’t Opera open source?

So, with all that raging neo-libertarian angst, why isn’t Opera open source?

Quite frankly, I have no fucking clue. And with Webkit giving everyone — including Mozilla — a run for dominance over the personal viewport to the web, I simply don’t see why anyone would build on the Opera platform (albeit, their platform is largely the web — though their rendering engine remains proprietary).

Could it be failure of imagination? Is it that Opera hasn’t figured out that the future of the web is in hosted and delegated services? Or, is it that they did figure that out, but desperately want to defeat that future in order to write an alternative future with their browser at its center?

In 2006, Opera didn’t see a business model for open source browsers. Little has changed since then, except that they now have three formidable open source challengers to contend with that have shipped “cloud services”: , Google’s Apps and Apple’s .

So, although you can build widgets for Opera Unite, you’re still relying on a third party to stay in the room with you… namely, Opera. And Opera isn’t exactly an organization that has behaved favorably towards the open source community in the past. Though that seems unlikely to change, it still begs the question why they believe there is more value is staying proprietary than opening up their browser to outside contributors.

Still, regardless of the decision that they make for their business about open source, there’s a bigger elephant in the room that needs to be addressed:

Is Opera Unite really decentralized?

Opera United

Opera’s CEO Jon von Tetzchner claims that “Opera Unite now decentralizes and democratizes the cloud”, illustrated like this:

Data sharing with Opera Unite

I call bullshit.

Opera Unite does indeed rely on a P2P-like network to function, but the big problem is that you must push all your traffic through Opera’s proxy service:

The set up when using the Opera Unite server in your browser

Not exactly “decentralized” (more on this in the next section).

Furthermore, if you read through the Opera Desktop End User License Agreement (which you had to if you installed the browser — shame on you if you didn’t!), you would have read section 7: USE OF SERVICES (emphasis mine):

Opera Unite and Transmission and Receipt of Content: Certain features of the Software and Services, including Opera Unite, may allow you to post or send content and/or links to content stored on your computer, that can be viewed by others (“User Generated Content”). Opera Software ASA exercises no control over User Generated Content passing through its network or equipment or available on or through the Services. You agree that Opera Software ASA is not liable for any loss of data. YOU MAY ONLY POST OR SEND USER GENERATED CONTENT THROUGH THE SERVICES THAT YOU CREATED OR THAT YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO POST OR SEND.. You agree not to use Opera Unite to upload, transfer or otherwise make available files, images, code, materials, or other information or content that is obscene, vulgar, hateful, threatening, or that violates any laws or third-party rights, hereunder but not limited to third-party intellectual property rights. We do not claim ownership of any User Generated Content. However, by submitting User Generated Content to us, you grant us and our affiliates the right and limited license to use, copy, display, perform, distribute and adapt this User Generated Content for the purpose of carrying out the Services.

You agree that we are not liable for User Generated Content that is provided by others. We have no duty to pre-screen User Generated Content, but we have the right to refuse to post, edit, or deliver submitted User Generated Content. We reserve the right to remove User Generated Content for any reason, but we are not responsible for any failure or delay in removing such material. We reserve the right to block any user’s access to any content, web site or web page in our sole discretion. Opera Software ASA reserves the right to terminate your account if you use your account privileges to unlawfully transmit copyrighted material without a license, valid defense or fair use privilege to do so.

Disputes may arise between you and others or between you and Opera Software ASA related to content or commerce, including User Generated Content. Such disputes could involve, among other things, the use or misuse of domain names; the infringement of copyrights, trademarks or other rights in intellectual property; defamation; fraud; the use or misuse of information; and problems with online auction or commerce transactions. You agree that all claims, disputes or wrongdoing that result from, or are related in any way to, the content of information that you post, transmit, re-transmit or receive through the Services, Opera Software’s network or Software are your sole and exclusive responsibility. Opera Software ASA may at it’s discretion, block certain web sites or domains and re-route you to other pages. By accepting these Terms of Use, You hereby consent to this.

Besides this hands-on approach to their centralized proxy service, Opera also reserves the right to filter the apps that you can install, a la Apple and their approach to the AppStore (because everyone wants an AppStore, right?):

What are the guidelines for approval of an Opera Unite Service?

These are some of the guidelines that apply to services:

  • The service must have a sensible name and description
  • The service must not have obvious bugs, so ensure that you test it before uploading
  • The service must not contain malicious or destructive code
  • The service must not contain or use copyrighted information for which you do not hold the rights
  • The service must not contain or point to adult or hateful content
  • The service should comply with the Opera Unite Service UI guidelines. Any reason for diverging significantly from the guidelines should be documented in the submission
  • The service should serve standards-compliant HTML pages that are viewable in all modern browsers on a variety of devices.

I fail to see how this changes our reliance on “large corporations — who we depend upon to host our words, thoughts, and images” of whom Lawrence Eng spoke so disparagingly.

Owning Your Namespace

So, if it isn’t enough that you have to tunnel your connection through Opera’s proxies and place your service’s existence at the mercy of Opera’s filters, they also want to own your identity, something that everyone also wants to do lately.

In order to use Opera Unite, you have to have a my.opera.com account — perhaps not a big deal until you realize that you’ll be assigned a URL like http://notebook.username.operaunite.com/ to access your “self-hosted” outpost on the web.

Chris Mills, Opera’s Developer Relations Manager, explains:

To use Opera Unite Services, you need to log into Opera. This is the same login that you use to log in to My Opera, Dev Opera, or Opera Link.

Choosing an Opera Unite name for your computer

This name is basically your computer’s identity on the Opera Unite system — this is the URL that your contacts can go to if they want to make use of your Opera Unite Services, and share them with you.

So, while it’s true that your friends can access your Opera Unite homepage without an Opera account, if they want to host their own Unite server, they’re going to have to both download Opera and obtain an Opera account (and no, they don’t support OpenID).

While there are technical reasons why this makes some sense (mostly to make it easier to get things up and running), it contradicts the whole promise of obviating central control. Indeed, AllPeers (now defunct) and others offered similar solutions previously. Why did Opera not launch with the ability for me to choose my own URL, or at least mask my homepage URL with something that didn’t tie me to Opera…? Oh yeah, that’s right — it’s all about owning the namespace.

At least Google was smart enough when they launched Wave to build in true decentralization from the start, and to choose a patent license for the Wave protocol that demonstrated that their desire was not to own the network, but to compete on it.

Unite & Activity Streams

Now, I know I sound like a curmudgeon, but I’m mostly just disappointed that few other people took Opera to task over the reality distortion field that Opera’s PR machine generated around this technology launch. But, as someone in the office said to me today, maybe no one cares enough about Opera to bother. Yeah, exactly, like I said before.

Still, there is a silver lining to this cloud computing fiasco which NO ONE else covered: Opera Unite supports activity streams!

It turns out that tucked within the Opera application is a directory called “unite” (on the Mac you can find it at Opera.app:Contents:Resources:unite) which contains a bunch of files with the .us extension (presumably for “Unite Service”). Like Mozilla .xpi files, these .us files are just zip files and can easily be decompressed by changing the extension.

In just about every bundle, there are several pertinent JavaScript files either in a folder called “asdstream” or with “activityStream” in the filename. The one that’s most interesting to me is the “activitystreamparser.js” file in the fridge.as bundle, which starts like this:

activitystreamparser.js — unite

Now, I’m not sure how this is being used, but I imagine it’s being used to output updates on the personal homepage of the site… which is awesome.

I wish that Opera had reached out to the Activity Streams mailing list about this work, but I can also understand that they probably didn’t want to jump the hype stungun. Anyway, it’s a huge opportunity (in my eyes!) for them to join the discussion about the open social web (since they have been essential proponents of web standards on the open web to date) and I invite them to share their goals and ideas for this work.

Conclusion

Okay, so I shit all over Opera Unite, but you can’t come out and promise all kinds of world-changing, freedom-enhancing goodness and then not deliver! — worse, to do so when their newest competitor (Google!) is schooling everyone with the perfect example of how to do it right (see: Wave).

While I have problems with Opera’s marketing approach, I do think that it’s useful to have Unite in the marketplace so that I can point to it as an example of what I want to see happen with the Diso Project — though I’m not willing to rest my success on the fate of any particular browser.

Through a combination of technologies like OpenID, OAuth, XRD, Portable Contacts, Activity Streams and microformats, we’ve been moving in this direction for some time, without having to alter the browser. Of course that’s meant that the browser has been conspicuously missing from the conversation, but that too is changing (see Mozilla’s experiment baking OpenID into the browser with Weave), and with Unite, we have yet another vision to contemplate — though I would have loved to have seen Opera embrace more than just Activity Streams out of all the technologies from the Open Stack.

I’ll give Opera some credit — both for using Activity Streams instead of inventing their own protocol — and also for launching a fairly polished demonstration of Unite concept as an alpha. If they really want to offer transformative technologies, though, I think it’s critical that they align their business policies with their marketing rhetoric and technological objectives, down to the code level. Anything less will result in confusion and worse, more posts like this one!

87 Comments

  1. at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    Very good writeup on a much buzzed product that fails to impress me in the slightest. Thanks a lot for this, Chris.

  2. at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I think Opera picked the wrong fight here; cloud providers (Flickr, Twitter, Google Docs, GMail, Zoho, Facebook) aren’t actually inherently evil.

    I think the other piece worth mentioning is that most consumers aren’t against using cloud services when they have ownership and control over their data and ideally have standard APIs to get that data in and out of cloud. I think that a better strategy might have been for Opera to provide a standard interface to and between all of these clouds, turning them more into “bit buckets” than decreeing that they’re wrong to begin with.

  3. Dion Almaer said
    at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    Chris,

    Is Opera not open source because they make money from companies that want a browser but for their own reasons don’t accept open source?

    Good writeup!

    Cheers,

    Dion

  4. Einar said
    at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    Wow, why the angst? I think your assumption that Opera is trying to capitalize on the “rise of the social network” is a bit off..didn’t that happen like 2 years ago, anyway?

    I think it’s a pretty cool technology that has its place. Will it go mainstream? Probably not. But for the millions of Opera users (and soon to be users), it could serve as an interesting feature. Do I think it’s a reinvention? No. But at least they got you (and others) talking about it.

  5. at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    Excellently put! That was my sneaking sensation about the entire thing, but you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  6. Andy Piper said
    at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    Totally with you on this, Chris.

    What’s more, it strikes me that this has little chance of making it into the enterprise, where the majority of desktop / notebook OS installs are. If you’re a large company running Windows, Linux or OS X then you are likely to go with the default browser on those systems (or, potentially for a heterogeneous install base, one cross-platform browser like Firefox) because you can “trust” the code. In Opera’s case with Unite you’re sending stuff through their proxy, which is going to be a big no-no. You’re also potentially opening up all kinds of ports for the web server / P2P components, and this is likely to send most IT departments’ security teams into fits. I just can’t see it happening. I’m summarising massively here but it’s late as I type this and I don’t have the will to clean it up and be more specific about the issues – hopefully you get my drift.

    On top of that, I can’t see the value of this feature to me as a consumer. As you rightly point out, increasingly I am comfortable with my “stuff” being in the cloud where I’m more likely to have some backup being performed invisibly for me, than if I have it on my single machine at home.

    The browser world rapidly seems to have settled into IE/Gecko/Webkit bases and I can’t really see the space for Opera now. It works well, and fast, on the one platform that I *sometimes use it (OS X, FYI), but I’m at a loss to tell why they have gone in this direction at this point in time.

  7. at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought this was bs.

  8. at 4pm on Jun 16th # |

    Why is there no references from OpenMicroBlogging-systems here? BackType doesn’t support it? Only big centralized systems like Twitter? :]

    Many of us depend on others to dig into tech like this, so thank you for doing it. I was in the wild before, thinking this was something I’ve been waiting for (only implemented in a libre browser). But like I can’t verify all source code is good, I can’t dig into every single interesting tech news, and depend upon others to investigate.

    This fit the bill. :-)

  9. trench said
    at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    I read the entire thing – no skimming. Full-agreement from @trench, including a golf-clap *and* an extended hand awaiting five.

    A high five.

    And I have two No. 2 pencils prepared for the exam.

  10. at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    Oh. I can’t type. Too late.

    Anyway, social networks are huge in Norway (which is in Europe). The mainstream media doesn’t write about anything other. And people don’t care about freedom.

    I’m still fighting for a decentralized internet where not too much control is in the hands of a few companies. They are OK now, yes, but power corrupts everyone, and especially companies that doesn’t really have any moral (other than, it might hurt our income if we’re found out).

    Anyway, innovation happens when we’re not restricted, the data silos of todays social networks restricts us. I know you’re a huge proponent of open social networks, but except for a few mentions I didn’t read it in this blog post. It can be read like; there are no problems with social sites like facebook and myspace, and Opera tries to make some. Do you believe that, or were you merely saying what most people think?

  11. Hamranhansenhansen said
    at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    I thought Opera Unite would be one good Opera browser to replace the 3 or 4 various bad ones, but it is just a 5th bad browser. I thought the point of Opera was to be what WebKit currently is? What is the point now?

  12. yesindeed said
    at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    “waning relevance of their browser”

    Meaning what exactly? Apart from being the dominant mobile browser, Opera has more than doubled its desktop user base in less than 2 years.

    Not to mention the fact that other browsers keep stealing its innovation.

    You’ll see Unite implemented in Safari or Firefox within 1-2 years.

  13. Rod Begbie said
    at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    Thanks for this. I downloaded Opera last night, started it up, created a fridge, thought “I don’t get it — why is this in a browser?” and deleted it.

    While mine might not have been a terribly deep investigation, your post at least confirms my gut impression!

  14. yesindeed said
    at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    Some questions and comments:

    “Opera isn’t exactly an organization that has behaved favorably towards the open source community in the past”

    What do you mean by that? Got any specific examples?

    “Opera didn’t see a business model for open source browsers”

    Ahem, that’s not what he said. He said that he didn’t see a model for THEM:

    “we haven’t found a business model that allows us to go fully open source”

    Nothing about open source in general.

    “Is it that Opera hasn’t figured out that the future of the web is in hosted and delegated services?”

    Like Opera Mini and Opera Turbo?

    “I simply don’t see why anyone would build on the Opera platform”

    Maybe because Opera can actually help you build a proper browser, and has a support organization for that very purpose, while with WebKit you are basically on your own?

  15. Nissefar said
    at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    Chris,

    I wish you’d have researched a bit more thoroughly, I think you’re judging Opera Unite unfairly. Two important points:

    1) You do _not_ need to use Opera’s proxy servers unless you are behind a router/firewall that doesn’t support UPnP. If your router supports UPnP, it opens up a port so you can be connected to directly by the clients.

    2) You’re free to use your own URLs. Unite simply runs as a web server (on port 8040 by default, I believe, but it can be changed).

    Check out this interesting post on Reddit for some Q&A with one of the developers:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/8svh8/opera_unite/

    About MyOpera supporting OpenID, I know there’s been some discussion about it.

    http://my.opera.com/devblog/blog/2008/06/10/openid-on-myopera

    Cheers,

  16. at 5pm on Jun 16th # |

    So does the personal web server only work when the browser is open?

  17. at 6pm on Jun 16th # |

    Hey Chris,

    I think it’s a mistake to see the value of this feature as being to do something analogous to Apache on the desktop. I’d see the benefits as being about ways you can use a web server to extend browser-style apps. Detailed comments here?

    http://gonze.com/blog/2009/06/16/music-implications-of-the-opera-announcement/

  18. Sri said
    at 7pm on Jun 16th # |

    200 million Facebook users can’t be wrong, right?
    WRONG!
    They are there ’cause they havent got enough options.

  19. at 8pm on Jun 16th # |

    Well written post. I gave opera Unite a spin last night. you need agree that opera’s marketing team did well enough to get you to use it atleast once (even if the pitch was wrong). The unite features and services are good additions, but i think they wont convert more users for opera. At the end of the day if i close my opera my server is shutdown. whats the point i run my webserver on mydesktop(BTW i really would be happy to pay it off to experts for hosting my content). Open is not open source and thats why i prefer chrome or firefox.

    Chris you forgot that these are added features that you have been ranting here about. Opera as a browser is still good. Its light weight, quick to start, handles memory better than firefox. Opera has a lot of such small advanteges that can keep the opera community going..

  20. Dave Mora said
    at 8pm on Jun 16th # |

    I expected nothing and somewhat got a little more then I expected.

    They have a little nice Social Network in my eyes. The my.opera social network gives you a large space for your personal files.

    I really was wishing that they were going to expand on that with the use of Opera and Widgets.

    Where all my stuff would be in the Opera Cloud. Not putting my computer in the Opera Cloud.

    I was also expecting the ability for Opera to copy and run scripts locally with out the need of the site supporting HTML5

    But, like I said. I expecting nothing and got a little bit more.

    #my2cents

  21. at 8pm on Jun 16th # |

    Chris
    the reason they don’t open source it is simple: Opera’s bread and butter comes from their mobile browser, not their desktop browser. I’m surprised they’re even still developing the desktop version given their marketshare.

  22. Einar said
    at 9pm on Jun 16th # |

    @Duncan Riley – check your numbers there. Look at how much Mozilla is making from its browser. Take those numbers backwards to try and calculate Opera’s revs on the Desktop based on publicly available user numbers. Easy to see why they don’t give up on the desktop.

  23. at 10pm on Jun 16th # |

    Some clear-eyed thinking here, Chris. Being locked into Opera’s proxy system and namespace doesn’t really buy us much freedom, does it?

  24. Vygantas said
    at 11pm on Jun 16th # |

    “Why isn’t Opera open source?”

    Usually, I find that a big part of people who complain that they need open source products doesn’t even take advantage of it.

    Unite is open source though.

  25. kfet said
    at 11pm on Jun 16th # |

    While this sounds like a good analysis at first it simply gets everything about Opera Unite wrong.

    If you’re interested in the ways Opera gives you control over you own content try typing opera:config in the address bar and search for “Web Server” (in other words go here: opera:config#WebServer|Backlog).

  26. Ryan said
    at 11pm on Jun 16th # |

    As with Nissefar’s comment I’d like to point out that you are misleading people.

    You do *not* need to use Opera’s proxy servers unless you are behind a router/firewall that doesn’t support UPnP. If you do have support (most modern routers do) you get direct P2P access without the proxy.

  27. at 11pm on Jun 16th # |

    This concept is pretty much similar to the discussion we had at Barcamp Bangalore 8. But the fact is that you have to be dependent on some online service to dynamically map to ur IP. Some details of the discussion are at http://barcampbangalore.org/bcb8/cloud-home .
    But yeah turning your web browser into a web server felt stupid instantly.

  28. Yoz said
    at 11pm on Jun 16th # |

    An alternative implementation of Unite:
    Dynamic DNS + UPnP + POW ( http://davidkellogg.com/wiki/Main_Page )

    Sure, “but I could just string these disparate services together with duct tape!” is the typical product-blind geek’s response; but in this case, it’s considerably more in line with Unite’s lofty, unmet ideals.

  29. at 11pm on Jun 16th # |

    Hi Chris,

    This is Lawrence. I met you at a previous BarCamp in San Diego. Just to clarify, I neither invented nor engineered this technology. My purpose was simply to help elucidate Opera’s vision regarding Opera Unite.

    Thanks for taking the time to really look over Opera Unite. It’s a complex technology with even more complex implications, so a dialogue and information sharing are absolutely critical, especially at the early stages of a launch when both hype and counter-hype are running rampant, and mainstream news sources don’t necessarily have the time to dig deeply into the subject.

    There are parts of the vision I presented that you and others might disagree with. Some of those things we can chalk up to political differences, or perhaps a difference in the way different parties prefer to approach marketing. However, I think several of the major complaints you have come from a few misunderstandings (which I freely admit might be due to lack of clarity on my part).

    There’s one major point that needs to be addressed:

    Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Google Docs, and all the various social networks and cloud-based web apps of the world are not inherently evil, by any means. Cloud computing, in the traditional big datacenter sense, is not something to be thrown out. Opera itself hosts a social network (My Opera) that has been a very successful offshoot of our user support forums, and we have our own cloud service for data (e.g. bookmark and Speed Dial) synchronization across browser instances. We also have a presence on various social networking sites around the web, and of course we work very hard to make sure that our browser works with cloud-hosted web applications of all sorts. On a personal note, I am one of those social-network obsessed Americans you mention who has accounts on Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, orkut, etc. and I still plan to use them (alongside Opera Unite).

    So no, 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 (for what I would consider a truly healthy online ecosystem) and are not optimal for all the things we envision people will eventually do online (which is a lot!).

    That’s the vision we presented for this new technology. How it will be turn out, and what it will ultimately mean for users and the IT world, is a question that only time will answer. Hopefully, we built in the right things so that developers will use the platform for good–in profoundly cool ways. As you rightfully say, it’s not just about the philosophy. The experience we’re providing has to be easy and better, and I think Opera Unite is pretty darn easy to use considering how much power it gives to users (some might say more power than they can handle, but we’re addressing that too).

    Regarding a few other specific complaints:

    1. Yes, 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.

    2. Seeking to increase the popularity of Opera and supporting user freedom are not mutually exclusive; that’s a false dichotomy. Furthermore, you can’t get popular without making users happy, and that’s what we try to do when we introduce browser innovations.

    3. I don’t know about American versus European perceptions as a whole, but there seems to be plenty of Americans who support the idea of individuals having more choice regarding how they share their data and interact with each other online.

    4. The question of Opera and Open Source has been discussed online repeatedly in the past. I don’t think Opera has ever said anything bad about other browsers being open source; obviously, that solution works for them, but it doesn’t necessarily work for us. There’s room in the world for closed source solutions to live beside open source ones, and once again, people are given a choice regarding what they prefer. As you know, of course, we believe that focusing on open standards is the way to go.

    5. 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.

    6. The EULA is something we’ve been getting questions on. My colleagues have been fielding those questions and are more suited to answering than I am, so I’ll leave it at that, along with your concerns regarding namespaces (it’s something we will look into, especially if widespread outcry becomes apparent). Some common user questions are addressed on this page: http://unite.opera.com/support/ (I think it’s worth a look)

    7. At Opera, we reserve the right to host applications that we deem are appropriate. If someone wishes to host their own Opera Unite application outside of our repository, they are free to do so, but due to security considerations, we recommend that users install trusted and verified applications hosted 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. ;)

    -Lawrence

  30. Dawson said
    at 11pm on Jun 16th # |

    A interesting mix of “things you did get right”, “things you did get partly right” and “things where you’ve missed the point”

    The most important one is: You DON’T need the proxy server. The proxy is there so people who don’t have a) upnp and b) don’t understand what to do, when somebody tells them “just open port xxxx in your router”, e.g. normal users, can still use this service. If you’ve a better idea for this problem, I’m pretty sure the Opera engineers want to hear about it, so they can implement it in the next version.

    Second point: You’ve nicely cited their license agreement, but missed the important point, that all of this only applies to things you _upload to Operas servers_. To use Opera Unite you DON’T have to upload anything. You CAN upload things, so people can access them all the time. If you don’t choose to do this all things stay on your client and can be accessed whenever you are online and have activated Unite.

    The rest of the post is okay and informative – thanks.

    p.s.: They still have no business opportunity for OSS, because they have to make a living with Opera. Neither Google, nor Apple, nor Firefox has to do this.

  31. SDFSDF said
    at 12am on Jun 17th # |

    You do not have to use proxy. You are totally wrong about it.

  32. Gary said
    at 12am on Jun 17th # |

    Good post I didn’t read it all due to my very own vapidity (which I had to google first).

    I installed Opera, saw what it was, realised I wasn’t “connected” to anybody like I would be on Facebook or Twitter and uninstalled it.

    Too bad.

  33. Sam Dutton said
    at 1am on Jun 17th # |

    >>
    I wish you’d have researched a bit more thoroughly, I think you’re judging Opera Unite unfairly. Two important points:

    1) You do _not_ need to use Opera’s proxy servers unless you are behind a router/firewall that doesn’t support UPnP. If your router supports UPnP, it opens up a port so you can be connected to directly by the clients.

    <<

    I think this is an unfair criticism of the blog post, given that the documentation for Opera Unite makes it look like it requires the Unite proxy servers.

    Two other things…

    The RIAA (et al) will be very interested in the music sharing examples.

    Most users won't have enough upload bandwidth to run a web server — there's a reason why web servers live in datacentres!

    Sam Dutton

  34. Tristan Turpin said
    at 1am on Jun 17th # |

    Hi Chris,

    (I’m working at Opera)
    I think you could have picked a worst example than facebook here.
    Where have you been all this time you were surfing ?

    Haven’t you read about all the privacy issues with facebook ?Personal data being stolen to retrieve passwords, pictures stolen ending up on harmful websites, or on ads like the story about this family pic who ended up on a giant Ad in Prague ?

    This really doesn’t deserve your article very well.

  35. at 1am on Jun 17th # |

    I think you are wrong by and large.

    200 million FaceBook users share only the bare minimum information about themselves in that part of the cloud. You will not see there personal documents, company materials and so on. Why? Because it’s not a trust platform.

    To say that Opera Unite is somehow the same thing as cloud computing would be to say that P2P is the same thing as cloud computing, so wrong again.

    Wave isn’t a decentralised (as yet), as using Google Wave would mean storing potentially highly sensitive data on Google servers – again something that every single PLC does not want to do and will not do.

    Think about the use of this service also in terms of intranets. Could be nice.

  36. at 1am on Jun 17th # |

    Actually Ben Burkert, the APIs are not unknown. They’re published on Dev Opera and under a Open Source BSD licence: http://dev.opera.com/libraries/unite/

  37. haeinous said
    at 2am on Jun 17th # |

    I’m not a techie, but I wrote my senior essay on using Information and Communication Technology for Development in Africa. (Opera Mini is playing a huge role in developing countries due to the prevalence of mobile phones; almost everyone owns or has access to a mobile phone. It is anticipated that the mobile phone will leapfrog the PC, which is, after all, a pretty expensive luxury that most Africans cannot afford.)

    Opera is not evil. Neither is Google. It was wrong to use a “Big Brother” scare tactic in its video promotion.

    However, I see Opera (..& Mini & Sync) as a sort of free MobileMe, which is $99 a year after the free 60-day trial. (MobileMe also doesn’t work with Blackberries, because Apple wants us to use their iPhone. I don’t think it’s cause Apple is evil; it’s just a marketing tactic. Their bet is that most people will not find out about Opera Sync and how to use it to recreate free MobileMe-like services.)

    A techie friend who works at Microsoft once told me that what distinguishes Opera and Apple is that Opera’s products are more customizable. Apple does a great job of customizing our computers for us (no complaints), but I think that I’ve gained enough tech-knowledge (..) to use Opera and enjoy all of its benefits arising from its customizable features.

    I am in the process of learning more about technology in order to have more clout in matters like this. My belief is that Opera will make itself relevant-and I contend that it already has in developing countries-and especially in the wake of #IranElection and the story of Deng Yujiao, Opera Unite has great potential.

    I am going to download it now.

    ps. I suppose a “fridge” is like a Facebook wall..

  38. blah said
    at 2am on Jun 17th # |

    One of the most pretentious articles ever and it didn’t actually say anything.

  39. sydd said
    at 2am on Jun 17th # |

    Interesting article, but i think miss the point of whats unite intended for.

    I think a new service is good if i can do something easier/better with it than before. This is the first priority criteria. Anything else like the marketing campaign/is it open source etc. is less relevant. And here you seem to write only about second priority things.
    I think unite is really a new thing(But not groundbreaking like the pr says). And as with all new things you have to think about it a little bit how you could use it for yourself.

    Some usage example for unite:
    1. I go to work/school. I leave my comp at home on with sharing my music folder. At work i simply connect to my comp. (note i dont have/wanna buy 100Gb Ipod)
    2. Im chatting with my friend and he wants to have a look at the pictures i took during summer. I give him the URL and he can look at what he wants.
    3. Or he wants the 3Gb video that i’ve made during tha holiday.
    4. Or i want to show someone my music collection. (So he can listen to it too.)
    5. I need acces to my documents folder at work. I dunno exactly what docs ill need there, so i share my whole doc folder.
    and so on..

    These thing were possible before unite too. But they took much more time. And you needed to be good with computers to do it. Even my mother could set up unite, but i doubt she could do the same with an apache server/VNC/…

    Ps.
    You have errors in your article too, your data goes only trough the unite server if you dont have upnp router.
    Which i doubt.

  40. at 2am on Jun 17th # |

    Very nice writeup, thanks. Yes, the article about Unite that I read first lost me at “Opera Unite functions via a proxy server” in the very first paragraph – at that point my interest suddenly evaporated.

  41. Tuttle said
    at 3am on Jun 17th # |

    Their marketing/buzz thing is completely annoying and useless. And they should remove the centralized part of this unite thing.
    I like the idea of an average Internet user ability to share contents/applications in an easy way without having to install or parameterize a lot of stuff. It’s not about making permanent server applications, but a new way of thinking your applications, with temporary availability.
    Opera is not open source, at least you know what you can expect. It is their choice, have disadvantages but not only, it make it harder to break the application and found exploits.
    And remember that an open source application is not a free application, it can (most of the time) use proprietary pieces on it, proprietary code.
    Did you tried Google Wave yet so you can really compare them ?
    But as always Opera browser show us a lot of creativity (they introduces speed dials, mouse gestures, tabbed browsing, sessions recover…) and the idea will maybe as always with them, be developed by others.

  42. at 3am on Jun 17th # |

    > secrecy

    Of course. It is a massively competitive landscape for Opera. A small European software company up against Microsft, Google, Apples, and the Mozilla Horde.

    > big problem that people have been complaining about for years

    Yes they have been. A huge number of articles have been written about privacy on social networking sites.
    One of the biggest stories of last year was when Facebook tried to change it’s terms of service to effectively
    own all content you produce on the site. Net privacy is a major issue in Europe.

    > People have embraced social networks because they make it easy to
    > share and collaborate using the browser that they already have

    Bullshit. People embraced them (facebook, eta) because it was the only system available that the general public could use and understand. The herd of lemmings followed the herd.

    > doing so largely to increase the
    > waning relevance of their browser

    Where in any of this is that relevant? They are doing it because they love their product and have introduced browser feature after feature. The majority of in ovations in browsers in the last 10 years have been created by Opera.

    Mozilla is only open source because of the complete failure of Netscape. They only open sourced as a last ditch rat f* effort against microsoft. Mozilla was utterly lame in the extreme for five years.

    Google, only doing it to try to open market share for search and ads. There is no grand intention here other than a profit motive.

    Apple, was tried of everyone else (including opera) driving this much influence on their products. Obviously Jobs knew that the browser was the future core product of every computing machine on the planet. They had to own it.

    IE – we know the history here.

    Opera – is the one browser company that has driven browser development for over a decade. MDI/Tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, small size, cross platform, page zoom, user css, skins, are all Opera innovations. The list of new innovations by other browsers is pretty small. The list of Opera’s features ripped off by other browsers is huge.

    > than a mainstream, social network-obsessed American one.

    Then why is there so much backlash against Facebook whenever they try to change anything relating to privacy?

    > I think Opera was wrong to paint their
    > pitch with the paint of libertarian ethos

    Spoken like a true, “who gives a flying F*” American. In Europe – it is a different story. Opera Software is sooooo European.

    >Why isn’t Opera open source?

    Why should it be? Opera is the only “for profit” browser manufacturer in the world. Lets be honest, all the other “open source” browers are not open source by choice. They are open source because it is the only option available to them to compete on their OTHER products.

    Opera on the desktop is not Opera’s main product and produces very little money. Opera’s IP is in mobile and set top devices. That market and product is worth protecting.

    >why they believe there is more value is staying proprietary
    >than opening up their browser to outside contributors.

    So you think every company that has proprietary software and a public API is fos?

    Opera has a large base of developers that have built Opera Widgets (widgets.opera.com) and those existing widgets will trasfer to Opera Unite.

    >Opera Unite does indeed rely on a P2P-like network to function,

    Not the way I understand it. Your machine does NOT connect directly to the other parties machine. Your machine ONLY connects to the Opera Unite server.

    > Activity Streams mailing list about this work,
    > but I can also understand that they probably
    > didn’t want to jump the hype stungun. Anyway, it’s a huge

    I don’t get the interest in this. You can already do similar with a zillion bookmarklets and widgets. A waste of code and effort.

  43. Russ Jones said
    at 4am on Jun 17th # |

    I have to disagree with you on this one…

    1. Convenience: I accomplished in 30 seconds what would take hours with LAMP+Ampache+DynDNS.

    2. The Proxy: The proxy service gives you the convenience of centralization for consuming and the convenience of localization for creating. You are greatly underestimating the value of not having to do shit. I type in a URL to get access to the stuff I want. I save files on my computer to distribute that same stuff. I don’t have to log in and upload.

    3. Proprietary: No one gives a shit about Open Source. Sorry for the language, but you make the claim that no one gives a shit about it being decentralized, well no one gives a shit about the openness either. Look at iPhone apps. Arguably, the Apps have made the iPhone what it is (hell, look at their marketing now. “Theres an app for that”, they don’t tout anything else anymore in their advertising).

    Ill put it this way – I had been a FireFox fanboy through-and-through. I am dependent upon several of it’s extensions in my job. I had it as my primary browser on a PC, Mac and Ubuntu machine. Now, I have Opera. With the 10.0 beta which passes ACID 3, I began the conversion. Now, it is complete. Oh, and now my wife and friends use it (non-techies). I showed them that 30-second music server and they were hooked.

  44. Frank Silva said
    at 4am on Jun 17th # |

    I don’t see why Chris has filtered an answer given by Lawrence from Opera. Yet it does not criticize Chris article, it clarifies some views from Opera in this new service they offer. So I post here the link, I hope you all read too. If knowledge does not goes around it is wasted.

    http://my.opera.com/Lawmune/blog/2009/06/17/opera-unite-clarifying-the-vision

  45. Michael said
    at 4am on Jun 17th # |

    Frankly this reads like copy from Google or Microsoft.

    People actually do think that giving over all their photos documents and thoughts to these centralized “experts” for “storage” is dangerous. Just ask your sister in law. It’s just that they don’t have a choice, the temptation is too strong, it’s worth it.

    Your dilation on the legal boilerplate is completely ridiculous. What else are they supposed to say? Have you ever read any other legal boilerplate? We just needed some threatening sci-fi music in the background.

    Again, the emphasis on the proxy servers is a red herring. How the hell else are they supposed to set it up, at least for starters? It’s plain that if it catches on other systems can be introduced. –And storing pointers to my pictures and thoughts — that’s like holding copies of my pictures and thoughts? In any case, if your enemies find it “interesting” calls it “revolutionary,” it’s only because they’re thinking a lot of other browsers are likely to do the same.

    I don’t think the outpouring of blog + tech press blather was 1/10 what it was for ‘Google Wave’, which frankly seemed like an outright plan for fascism to me. That company has way too much power. That you are complaining that Opera isn’t open source, when in the present case it is acting as a little appliance for your own thoughts and images — but not that Google is a single giant corporation that has everything on everyone, is so utterly blind to reality, it is astounding.

  46. at 5am on Jun 17th # |

    Your comments are insightful and you clearly spent much more time grokking their B.S. than I had the stomach to. To begin with, it’s Opera, so … who cares? But in any event it’s personal websharing that disappears when your computer is offline, so it’s a non-solution (personal web presence made easy, except it isn’t) to a non-problem (plenty of such solutions exist — e.g. Google Sites — which don’t depend on your choice of browser or your computer being online).

  47. Martin said
    at 5am on Jun 17th # |

    To make opera unite have any major impact, they should do what Google is doing with Wave, completely open it up, even allow for other implementations of it. Then allow those implementations to talk to each other, as mail (which is what wave is challenging)

    That being said, I have already used Unite intuitively a couple of times already, not to test it, just because I wanted to do something and Unite worked perfectly for me. The 2 uses I had for it was to share some images with someone using the photo sharing. And the other was the file sharing. No hassle, just works.

    For all we know, Opera could be going the open source way with this later on, and as for belonging to the operaunite.com namespace, this is a necessity for getting it to work, although it’s quite possible Opera will allow advanced users to forward their own domains to their opera address.

  48. Robert said
    at 5am on Jun 17th # |

    That is probably the best (and most accurate) articulation on Opera Unite that I have (will) read anywhere. Good stuff.

  49. Opa said
    at 5am on Jun 17th # |

    what a lame asshole you are!
    i shit on you, morron!

  50. Hi! said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    @Brett Tabke:

    “Opera on the desktop is not Opera’s main product and produces very little money.”

    Actually, the desktop browser is about 1/4-1/5 of Opera’s total revenue, and the user base grew by 55% in 2007 and 67% in 2008.

  51. Hi! said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    @Brett Tabke:

    “Not the way I understand it. Your machine does NOT connect directly to the other parties machine. Your machine ONLY connects to the Opera Unite server.”

    Yes, it connects directly (if it is able to). There is no Opera Unite server. That is, you are running the server. It’s inside the browser.

  52. blackknight said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    The problem is that Opera Unite doesn’t solve an existing problem: http://www.browserinsider.com/1/opera-unviels-unite

  53. Hi! said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    @factoryjoe

    “tying you to an “operaunite.com” domain — is primarily where my criticism lies”

    How are you prevented from buying your own domain and using it for your Unite services?

    What is your proposed solution?

    AllPeers required an AllPeers client on both ends, right? But then you undermine the whole Unite concept, don’t you?

  54. Thiago said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    I agree that there is much ado about nothing here. It IS an interesting technology, it DOES save time and it IS useful, but honestly – it’s far from life-changing. Try explaining to your 1.0 mother or sister that they can now have a server on their browser and they will look at you with a blank stare – honestly, because they barely know what a browser is, let alone a server.

    I think this is another product to fall on the “curse of Opera” – drive innovation, start something new, please the geeks and “insiders”, and then see someone do it in a mainstream-friendly way and get left behind in the dust.

  55. Raaabo said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    Personally, I like Opera and Chrome and hate Firefox and its bugs. Anyone with a little knowledge of browser history knows that a lot of features that Opera brought out have “inspired” others to do the same.

    I agree that the marketing hype was obviously overdone, but then again, who doesn’t? Every tech company will swear that their product is the best thing since sliced bread — don’t believe a word of it, and move on. But at least be unbiased when trying it out.

    –…they’re going to have to both download Opera and obtain an Opera account (and no, they don’t support OpenID).–

    As a board member of the OpenID Foundation, this seems to tick you off about Opera more than anything else.

    You also contradict yourself when it comes to popular opinions:

    –I was sickened by the lack of analysis from the echolalic blogger news corps–

    then

    –200 million Facebook users can’t be wrong, right?–

    So which is it? Are the majority right or wrong? Personally, with stats that say IE and FF are the most popular browsers, I’m inclined to believe that the majority of web users are pretty clueless. If they weren’t, we’d all be using Linux, and services like twitter would stop murdering the English language and just die.

    You need to choose a stance — either look at it from the ease of use aspect for a general user, or from a more advanced user’s perspective.

    You’ve even gone to the extent of ranting about Unite’s EULA, and then praise Wave?

    Here are excerpts from Google’s EULA for Wave (http://wave.google.com/help/wave/terms.html):

    “By submitting, posting or displaying the Content, you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through the Service for the sole purpose of enabling Google to provide you with the Service in accordance with its Privacy Policy.”

    Also, Google’s general EULA:

    “4.3 As part of this continuing innovation, you acknowledge and agree that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you.”

    “4.4 You acknowledge and agree that if Google disables access to your account, you may be prevented from accessing the Services, your account details or any files or other content which is contained in your account.”

    “8.3 Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service.”

    That’s obviously not all of the terms, but I’ve chosen relevant bits, to illustrate that EULAs are pretty much all the same everywhere. All those lawyers pretty much have the same jargon used in their writing, and none of it really matters until you break the law, or do something stupid, or are actually one of the few who get screwed over by big brother.

    Let’s not single out Opera for being ultra-careful with their EULA, when everyone who provides a service online does the same.

    Besides, I don’t think Opera is stupid enough to think that Unite can ever compete with Facebook, or the likes. I don’t even think they’re trying… They’re making bold statements, like anyone who loves their job and company would do, but the bottom line is, Unite is a pretty decent service.

    If I use Opera at home, and want to access some of my files, I can do so using any other browser, anywhere in the world… that’s a decent enough feature. Instead of using apps like hamachi, remote desktop or services like logmein, here’s a really simple way to share files with friends, or just yourself.

    Are there easier ways of sharing things? If you’re not an Opera user, of course! If you are, however, only flash memory is easier.

    Those without broadband or those who don’t want to leave PCs running all the time will probably not care for such a service. Those who do, however, now have one more option.

    Unite isn’t going to change the world, I agree with you there, but I think you’re excessively negative about it without enough validation. So what if Opera “thought” they’d revolutionise the Web, and probably will not? At least I get one more service that costs me nothing, is easy to use because I have Opera installed, and is useful.

    As for Opera going open source, so long as it’s free, secure and useful, do any of us really care? At least it will not go the Firefox way of beating IE in the race for who has more serious exploitable bugs in their code…

  56. RoyalWitCheese said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    Most Residential ISP services forbid the running of servers on their networks.

    Installing Opera would constitute violating your ISP’s Terms of Service.

    Good thinking there Opera.

  57. rodrigot said
    at 6am on Jun 17th # |

    I think you’re being simplistic and obtuse.
    From all I heard you said “It’s a hardcore user product, marketed for every user, so the product is a stupid crap”. Even if it is badly targeted, it doesn’t ruin product which is very good and useful.

  58. TiagoTroll? said
    at 7am on Jun 17th # |

    @Thiago

    Why would you explain to your mother or sister that they can have a server?

    If you met someone who had never seen a car, how would you explaint it to them? Would you use all sorts of technical details and difficult words or would you explain the CONCEPT?

    You would explain the concept, I am sure.

    So why would you use difficult terms about Unite? Is it because you are biased against it and desperately want it to fail despite being a major hit?

    You would naturally say something like “just do this-and-this, and you can share your files/chat/stream music with anyone anywhere”, etc. you would NOT say “here’s a server which uses UPnP to get through your firewall in order to interface with other nodes”. Geez.

  59. whatonearth said
    at 7am on Jun 17th # |

    @Thiago

    Why would you explain to your mother or sister that they can have a server?

    If you met someone who had never seen a car, how would you explaint it to them? Would you use all sorts of technical details and difficult words or would you explain the CONCEPT?

    You would explain the concept, I am sure.

    So why would you use difficult terms about Unite? Is it because you are biased against it and desperately want it to fail despite being a major hit already?

    You would naturally say something like “just do this-and-this, and you can share your files/chat/stream music with anyone anywhere”, etc.

    You would NOT say “here’s a server which uses UPnP to get through your firewall in order to interface with other nodes”.

  60. crikey said
    at 7am on Jun 17th # |

    @Thiago

    Why would you explain Unite to your mother in technical terms? Why not explain it to them in plain English?

  61. Hi! said
    at 7am on Jun 17th # |

    Thiago,

    I don’t understand why you would insist on using the word “server”. Why can’t you just explain to her in plain English what it is?

    You could say something about how she can share things like pictures, music, etc. with anyone.

    How is Unite not mainstream-friendly?

  62. JG said
    at 8am on Jun 17th # |

    > What I find so fascinating about this marketing message is
    > that it presumes that owning one’s own data and “connecting
    > directly” with friends is somehow relevant to people — as
    > though it’s a big problem that people have been complaining
    > about for years, and that Opera has finally answered the
    > call.

    You haven’t lived long enough to understand what people are actually capable of or do to other people. You are young enough to live with the naive illusion that the cloud is always functioning, reasonable and safe.

    Have enough personal and professional experience in the real world to be highly suspicious of “the Cloud” for many, many things.

    There’s the government – the delusion is it’s always here to help and they would never spy on me or make an error in interpretation of who I am or what I do

    There’s private industry – the delusion that capitalism always is benevolent to the individual and that it’s always in their best interest to put the individual first

    There’s competitors to my business – the delusion that other companies actually play by the rules all the time and that they never would misuse data or even seek and get the government’s help to steal for their economic benefit

    There’s anyone who operates under moral hazard – the delusion that everyone’s benefit always is tightly coupled to risk

    There’s the reality that nothing lasts forever – the illusion that you can count on your data staying were you put it

  63. at 9am on Jun 17th # |

    (Disclaimer: I work for Opera, though I’m not directly involved with this project)

    I appreciate that you decided to take such a thorough look at Unite, but I just wanted to correct some misconceptions you seem to have regarding our service.

    “you’ll be assigned a URL like http://notebook.username.operaunite.com/ to access your “self-hosted” outpost on the web.”

    This is for convenience for the end user. If we didn’t provide the user with a relatively easy URL to use, they would be required to mess around with IP addresses, port numbers and maybe DynDNS. Having said that, however, you do indeed have the option of doing that if you wish.

    The quickest and easiest way to bypass Opera’s servers is to simply type in your public IP address (the one assigned to you by your ISP) and use the port number 8840.

    For example, http://10.0.1.2:8840/ (I used a LAN IP for this, but the principle is the same.) If your router supports UPnP, then Opera should configure port forwarding for you so it will work with using your public IP address, assuming you left that option enabled when you set up Unite. If your router doesn’t support UPnP, or you want to use a different public port, then you’ll need to do manual port forwarding.

    As a demo, I set up one which forwards port 80 to 8840 on my local machine and use a dyndns address.

    http://lachy.dyndns.org/

    If I have Unite running at the time you connect, you’ll see my root service. In this case, you’re connecting directly to my machine. Opera’s servers are not involved in the connection in any way.

    (One thing though, I had to make a small fix to the root service (home.us) to make the service links use paths instead of absolute URLs pointing to me via operaunite.com. This is a known bug, hopefully we’ll have it fixed in our next release, though I can’t make any guarantees.)

    “Opera also reserves the right to filter the apps that you can install, a la Apple and their approach to the AppStore”

    IANAL and I am not personally involved with the review process, but while our TOS do say that we reserve those rights, I believe that is mostly for our protection. We don’t want to allow malicious services to be distributed via our network, and I’m sure you can understand why. But unlike Apple and their AppStore, we place no restrictions on what services you can install or where you can obtain them from. So even if we don’t accept a service from someone for some reason, or if they choose not to submit it to us, they are still free to distribute in any other way they like.

  64. mu said
    at 11am on Jun 17th # |

    echolalic: Thanks for introducing that word to me. What an awesome one word summary of most blogs.

  65. Richard said
    at 2pm on Jun 17th # |

    You need to lose the swear words and tighten up the rhetoric. Then you’ll sound like a professional writer and not a dollar a day blogger. Which is a shame because otherwise, it’s a good article.

    Spend time on polishing. It’ll pay big dividends.

  66. at 2pm on Jun 17th # |

    The browser as the server isn’t the worst idea anyone ever had, but like other Opera-specific inventions (e.g. speed dial) it will quickly be incorporated by the other browsers if it’s worth its salt.

    Sam

  67. at 9pm on Jun 17th # |

    As you mentioned at the beginning, no other blogger has taken the time to dig deep into Unite like you have and I appreciate you taking the time to divulge your thoughts on the matter, as usual. That being said, I’m not sure what else to say that hasn’t been said in any of the comments above me..

    You’re spot-on about how Opera isn’t decentralizing shit.. their marketing video talked about middle-men servers.. well they’re just adding their own with their patrolled proxy. When I first got wind of Unite, browsed around and saw an example proxy URL.. my thoughts were along the lines of “you gotta be shitting me”, and then “oh well there’s probably a way to setup your own server, like mozilla weave”. The latter was not the case.

    In other news, Opera is now competing with Chrome on my computer for the title of primary porn browser. It was Safari for the longest time, but thanks to xmarks, I now use Firefox and Safari interchangably all the time (typically, I just flip over to Safari when Firefox starts getting slow).

  68. Hi! said
    at 2am on Jun 18th # |

    @Paul Stamatiou

    “You’re spot-on about how Opera isn’t decentralizing shit.. their marketing video talked about middle-men servers.. well they’re just adding their own with their patrolled proxy.”

    Did you really read the comments? It’s possible to access the service without going through the operaunite.com.

    And it’s a bit of a straw man to basically claim that Opera Unite promised to do away with DNS servers and routers. No, Opera Unite does away with storing your files on other people’s servers. Either you send them directly, or if a direct connection is not possible, falls back to an Opera server which routes the traffic.

    You will never do away with having to use someone else’s DNS servers and routers (or the Opera proxy/router fallback if no direct connection is possible), but Unite does away with having to store your data on other people’s computers for others to access it.

  69. billy said
    at 3am on Jun 18th # |

    Firefox has this addon called “POW” since the beginning of 2008. So WTF?

  70. Mark Trojahn said
    at 4am on Jun 18th # |

    Well… I don’t see Unite really working or changing the way we use the web… But the things you say in your post are all biased and most of them are even lies…

    How can you not setup a domain to your Unite services? Why Opera can’t take advantage of social networks like everyone else does?

    I mean, you are clear an intelligent guy… Faking to be STUPID just to sell your crap is really a shame… At least write a decent REVIEW next time… Just because your stuff didn’t work or didn’t get enough media attention doesn’t mean other people’s work are crap and you “shit on them”.

    Sir, you are an idiot.

  71. Marius Aabel said
    at 7am on Jun 18th # |

    It has been pointed out by other commenters, but seriously people. Don’t trust this reviewer.

    How could Opera possibly pay for all that bandwidth? Why on Earth would they even what to?!!

    Check out opera:config#WebServer for all your use-your-own-domain and other geekery not intended for the mainstream audience. It’s all there. Like it always is with Opera.

    And to Opera Software, … good work. Bad work by your marketing department, but we kind of knew that about you already.

  72. sighsigh said
    at 11am on Jun 18th # |

    @billy said

    “Firefox has this addon called “POW” since the beginning of 2008. So WTF?”

    Yeah, we had mobile phones during the 90s as well, so who needs the iPhone! It’s just a phone, exactly the same as 10-15 year old phones!

  73. Børge said
    at 4pm on Jun 18th # |

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Tonido http://www.collecta.com/ or Dekho http://www.dekoh.com/ yet. They are both Free/Open Source systems very similar to Opera Unite.

  74. Nethan said
    at 5am on Jun 19th # |

    Not totally accurate analysis.

    Is it centralized ? No, it isn’t. As any Apache/IIS server, it is useless if you don’t have a domain name.

    You can use your IP but well, Unite permit to share URL so…

    Opera server do this DNS job, not more. It is NOT a proxy.

    So, it is possible to use alternative domain name service :
    http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/custom-domains-opera-unite/

    As any web server.

    Second problem in the analysis : The license.

    Well, in fact, it WAS perfectly accurate, and it is still the case for some things.

    The fact that Opera don’t want be responsible of illegal uses is understoodable, and this is just stupid to criticize it.

    Remember that Opera is a company, not a foundation, so they can be sued at any moment for anything and everything.

    The fact that you agree to not upload illegal stuff, and as Opera keep the capacity to block websites, they are sure to avoid annoying legal problems.

    Anyway, as it is a server, you can change the domain name if required.

    Nevertheless, the fact that « you grant us and our affiliates the right and limited license to use, copy, display, perform, distribute and adapt this User Generated Content for the purpose of carrying out the Services » was a serious and annoying problem.

    Opera ASA has corrected it :
    http://my.opera.com/haavard/blog/2009/06/16/opera-unite-terms-of-service-updated

    We can read that « For the avoidance of doubt, this clause does not apply to the files you share as an End-User of the Opera Unite, as such files are never uploaded to Opera’s site. Opera will not make a claim to own or use those files. ».

    No use, no ownership, they have no right on our content.

    Finally, why Opera is not Open-source ? Because it is a company who need money ? Open-source is not an Holy Grail able to solve everything. Opera don’t have serious market share unlike Firefox to call financial help from his user like Firefox did a day to pay adverts.

  75. Nethan said
    at 5am on Jun 19th # |

    One last word, about the « 200 million Facebook users can’t be wrong, right? » about the fact that « most people really don’t care and are happy to outsource storage of their data to someone else ».

    I will copy a french artist :

    « Billions of flies can’t be wrong : eat shit ! »

    The more Internet become centralized with time, the most this centralized servers gain control of our datas. Facebook is the perfect exemple, see the licence :

    « For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission [..] you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). »

    Great.

    Also, Facebook granted that the access of a deleted content is removed, but they keep the data for a “reasonable amount of time”. Define “reasonable”…

    Make a comparison with the corrected licence of Opera Unite :

    « For the avoidance of doubt, this clause does not apply to the files you share as an End-User of the Opera Unite, as such files are never uploaded to Opera’s site. Opera will not make a claim to own or use those files. ».

    Apart that, Facebook has a curious definition of “friends”. Well, anyway I never find any interest of this social network, and I don’t care that 200M people find one, as long as they are happy with it.

    >>> But this number can’t be used as an argument. <<<

    Also, as Opera, Facebook can « terminate your account on the Facebook Service [...] for any or no reason, at any time in our sole discretion, with or without notice. ». This is justified in a legal way, to avoid been sued…

    All licences are the same for this.

  76. pensato said
    at 7am on Jun 19th # |

    Very good article.

    I would never claim that Opera has it right, or that we should give up web hosts, but I do think that what they have done points to the next evolution in browsers (which Opera has consistently done since they first came into existence).

    I expect that what it will actually look like is an integrated home-page that uses all the various available API’s to centralize your internet hub.

    Some of it will rely on external services (say, twitter or google apps) and some of it will move back onto your personal machine (serving up photos, music and video).

    Really, people like you or I could already do this by designing a locally served web page that does almost exactly that, but what the browsers will do soon (and what Opera Unite points to) is for that to be built in and simplified.

    That is, instead of *choosing* a home page, we will pick components that will essentially build one. That will require a built-in web-server, unless it comes from Safari: Apple can leverage web-sharing in the OS.

    For some reason, Opera always manages to point in the right general direction, but always gets it just wrong enough to fail. Not like alpha release software, like an alpha release idea that others pick up, refine and run with.

  77. peter owens said
    at 11am on Jun 20th # |

    “marketing rhetoric” seems to be more a Microsoft concept than opera’s.

    anyway good that chris isn’t the advisor for security and innovation in any browser cause def he will bring down even the all almighty IE.

    about almighty i was been sarcastic ; )

  78. Dropmeoff said
    at 5pm on Jun 20th # |

    Thanks for raising the bullshit flag on Opera Unite.

    1) Tonido.com has already been doing this “own your own cloud” thing before Opera…hardly something that merits the phrase of “reinventing the web.”

    2) If servers are so bad, then why does Unite force our reliance upon (gasp) Opera’s SERVERS?!

    3) Why can’t I use my own URL on my alleged home webserver?

    4) No PHP support!

    5) Why can’t Opera get it’s sh*t together and make an open source browser with EXTENSIONS??? Hello???

  79. Frank said
    at 10pm on Jun 20th # |

    Sry, but some of your ideas are plain bs:
    1) having control of your own data is very important. Just cause some teens don’t get it what they are giving away is their problem.
    2) you can access unite directly without the opera proxy http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/custom-domains-opera-unite/

  80. Tuttle said
    at 4am on Jul 27th # |

    I had a look on Google Wave and it appears that no comparison are possible between Unite and Wave, they have not the same goal.
    Wave is more like a web 2.0 enhanced forum, with a 4chan spirit on the dev wave :/ whereas Unite offers new way of thinking temporary application on client-side.

  81. fucker said
    at 1am on Aug 22nd # |

    man you are obessessed.. just use your favorite browser and shut the fuck up.. what do you mean by open source and all that shit, hell! internet explorer the devil itself is still number one in maket share. Opera firefox chrome are all good browsers and everyone of them has their strong and weak points i.e. chrome is a resources hog, while internet explorer is the most fucked browser in the universe and still number one i don’t get it the world is full of evil.

  82. Johnny Reb said
    at 12am on Oct 3rd # |

    Opera Unite has sprung forth from dumb minds.

    For years, anyone could do this with any of a slew of web servers including the free Xitami, administered through the browser giving the user both an HTTP server and an FTP server.

    Even a lamer could use the Microsoft Personal Web Server back in the late 1990s.

    If Opera execs want to differentiate their browser, they should focus on turning the browser into a research tool. Instead the Opera Browser comes with a weak note taker.

    An Opera user can’t use any of the great web clipping sites. Web clipping seems to be a crucial upcoming function.

  83. ugg said
    at 10pm on Nov 4th # |

    I think we’ll just have to wait and see who has the properly functioning crystal ball. I think you’re entirely missing the point of Dropbox, Flickr, online chat, etc. And you’re also imagining a very unlikely future in which anyone, other than a handful of nerds that already know how to run a real web server, thinks, “Ooh, I want to host web pages on my own computer!” The idea that this will become dramatically more common, rather than as quaint as growing all of your own food, is, to me, absolutely absurd.Even ignoring the fact that the idea of “your computer” is becoming less and less a big box that sits on your desk and more and more a tiny device that you have in your pocket or your bag; and ignoring the fact that we’d really like for computers, even the big ones sitting on our desk, to sleep when not in use so we don’t chew up so much power and produce so much waste; and forgetting about the fact that someone has to actually write the code for all of the magic functions to address the problems you’ve proposed Unite can solve (and for a proprietary platform that about 1% of users use); and discounting the chicken and egg problem that in order for this to be easily useful across all of your devices you have to have Opera on all of your devices. Even forgetting all of these, huge, probably insurmountable even to a company the size of Microsoft, problems, Opera Unite still doesn’t solve any big problems that really effect users.

  84. Megadeth dude said
    at 12pm on Nov 24th # |

    Half of this article is good but half is based on wrong facts about Opera Unite, not to mention the author’s strong personal feelings against Opera.

    You should feel ashamed that you have to ask yourself in public why you would need to have the option of hosting files by yourself when the corporations are doing a good job at it.

    It’s the simple fact of *having* the option to host them yourself, which gives you the freedom. Freedom is choice.

    Also, if a product is not open source it doesn’t mean it’s bad or evil. Who came up with this idea anyway? Take uTorrent for example. It’s just different business models. Grow up.

  85. Bill said
    at 3am on Dec 4th # |

    Couldn’t agree less. While you criticise social networking, you still seem to think it has some value and some serious uses. Personally, I have zero interest in Twitter, Facebook and all the other brainless manifestations of social networking. They provide people with nothing to say the space to say it anyway, sometimes at considerable length. Why the hell should I be interested in whether or not some dim American teenager went to the bowling alley last night or what pets he or she owns? Most of the content is utterly, crushingly BORING! I would never entrust anything whatsoever to cloud computing because I am EXTREMELY concerned about safety and privacy. As for Google Wave – why should I actively volunteer to risk identity theft?

    Unite looks like a simple, very accessible way to share EXACTLY what you want to share, no more and no less. It appears to be as safe as anything can be in this dangerous age. It just might make some users actually THINK about what they want to share. There isn’t much in the way of thinking about on social networks. I think your vented spleen has made me MORE likely to use Unite. Perhaps you’re one of these people who think IE is a browser rather than a dangerous virus. I would never use anything else but Opera.

  86. digigenocide said
    at 10am on Mar 19th # |

    I really dont see how opera’s trying to take on services like facebook, flicker, etc with UNITE. Unite really doesnt fit that bill. Unite is more of an attack on hardware like the pogoplug, basically giving u an easy to set up server for you files using what u already have. I only wish there were some better apps for it. the only ones that are of any use are the Media Player, Stream video, and the File sharing. Only big down side is Unite closes when opera closes.So Opera has to running all the time

  87. Gantavya said
    at 9pm on May 24th # |

    I found Opera to be faster than any of those browsers out there. The idea of sharing ur stuffs from ur computer sounds cool to me. Its also super easy to setup. I have tried google buzz and its quite lame. One good thing about Opera Unite is that I don’t have to upload anything and wait for it to complete either. I believe Opera Unite is best way to share your stuffs with the friends u want. Google wave compares nothing to it. I am not against any company but I feel this when I compare Opera Unite and Google Wave.

One Trackback

  1. [...] Thoughts on Opera Unite Opera’s CEO Jon von Tetzchner claims that “Opera Unite now decentralizes and democratizes the cloud." I call bullshit. Opera Unite does indeed rely on a P2P-like network to function, but the big problem is that you must push all your traffic through Opera’s proxy service. [...]

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