Opera Software has had a vision. Grouped under the banner of Opera Unite, this vision is for a web browser that can turn the machine it’s running on into a web server of sorts. Then, said machine – depending which service you choose to run – can share materials and allow you to connect with as many of your friends as you like at the same time.
It’s entirely up to you what access privileges and suchlike you employ, and the big idea here is that it all runs from within the web browser, with no additional software required.
So to get things started, you have to download and install the Unite version of the Opera web browser. Once up and running – and Opera 10 is a fine browser if you’ve not had the pleasure of it before – you then activate the Unite features by clicking firstly in the top left of the screen to bring down tabbed options, and then choosing Unite.
What you then get is a list of the installed Services that are ready to go, although before you activate one – which you do by right-clicking on it – you need to set up an account with Opera. This requires just your name and e-mail address to be handed over, and your willingness to adhere to the terms and conditions.
Once you’ve done that, you then need to give your computer a name, which goes on to form part of your Opera Unite web address. So say we signed up as IT Reviews, and our computer name was ITR1, our web address would be http://itr1.itreviews.operaunite.com.
We started by trying our luck with the media player, although the ready to install options also included Fridge (which allows people to leave notes on your computer), Photo Sharing, The Lounge (this lets your friends come have a chat that’s hosted on your own machine), Web Server (which lets you host a website, arguably unwisely, from your computer) and Opera Messenger. As part of the installation for the Media Player, we were required to highlight a folder on our machine where we kept shared music content.
Once the Service had catalogued what we had, we were then able to set access privileges. Three levels are offered: ‘public’ lets everyone in, ‘limited’ keeps the files to those who we send the URL and password to, and ‘private’ means the files are just there to enjoy ourselves. It’s a neat, tidy little tool.
The argument, however, is that Opera Unite isn’t about just one Service, rather it’s offering a platform to use many. That said – and this is unsurprising given the infancy of the project – the catalogue of available Services at the time of writing is very slim, with just 15 available. The success or otherwise of Unite will surely be partly dependent on just how well Opera can mobilise developers to write third-party services in the manner in which Mozilla managed to do with its Firefox web browser.
If you have a collection of friends using Opera Unite, or there’s a group of you who regularly exchange materials online, then there’s clearly a benefit here. The central idea behind Opera Unite is solid, and what’s been implemented thus far shows great promise. But this is just the beginning for a service that is still in the labs as far as Opera is concerned, and motivating users and developers to support it is going to be pivotal.
For now, though, it’s a case of so far, really quite good.