Opera (news, site) was talking about re-inventing the Web recently and its latest release, version 10, isn't just a browser. It's a whole new technology called Opera Unite, featuring a web server in the browser.
As the Internet becomes ever more personal, Opera is taking things a step further by helping users create their own Web sites and services from within the browser. This step removes the need for relying on hosting, removes the need to constantly upload photos and videos to third-party sites or post stories to Facebook and other social networking sites.
Opera Unite consists of the server with which users can create self-hosted Web pages and a range of gadgets for instant media-themed applications, no coding required, such as the Fridge.
How Complicated Must This Be?
Starting at the beginning, the software is still classed as beta and the download is around 7MN for the Windows version. Once Opera Unite is installed, the server can be turned on by going to the Tools menu, selecting "Opera Unite Sever" and choosing "Enable." Users can create an account and pick a name for their computer, click "OK" and are good to go.
The Web link that is created is a direct line for friends, family and other users to a page hosted live on the user's computer. Firewalls, routers and other obstacles are dodged via Opera's proxy servers (which may be a long-term issue, are they reliable? Are they secure?)
Once running, users can choose from a number of pre-installed services to share files, photos, set up a chat room as well as create a personal Web server. Further services will be available to download and when the Opera Unite service officially launches could become a thriving community. The whole process is no more complex than adding a desktop widget.
Self-Hosting Made Easy
When users create a Web server, a similar process occurs. Choosing a folder on their PC, it becomes the host and root Web page. Most likely, it will be empty at first, but users can automatically create an index.html page and start to populate this with their own code or add other pages. The server has support for XML, CSS, WML, etc.
From our brief test, Opera Unite is suitably easy in operation. The product opens up many possibilities for close-knit personal communities. All users have to do to start one is send their address to others and watch them interact with the pages. Access can be public, limited to specific URLs or private, which lets only the creator access their own files, turning Opera into a useful storage facility for when they're away from the main PC.
Develop Your Own
Coders will also like the idea of creating their own services which can be used personally, or put on the repository for others. There is lots of detail on creating these at the Opera Develop pages. You can find out about the API's, creating scripts and the kinds of applications that can be made -- from games and collaboration tools and some far-out ideas. Anything created in Opera Unite can be run on any browser, the host computer is the only one that needs it installed.
While the idea of personal servers isn't new, see Tonido for a different take on the idea, Opera is a product that many have heard of and its unique features could help it capture a lot of market share and spark a new wave of personalized Internet. If you can handle the reliance on Opera's servers to handle the proxy side, Opera 10 is well worth investigating.
Note that the service's connectivity seems to be in question at the time of writing. Is this due to demand as word spreads and new users try it out, or is Opera suffering from fundamental issues that must be repaired before Unite is ready to leave beta?