Last week, Opera launched an alpha release of Opera Unite. My idea here here is to write an unbiased post about it, to answer some the most common questions and queries.
Background on Opera Unite
If you feel you want some background on Opera Unite before we start, please read Opera’s release blog post Taking the Web into our own hands, one computer at a time. If you want a direct critical view to complement that, you could also read Chris Messina’s Thoughts on Opera Unite, which, amongst other things, raises some valid questions.
So, what is Opera Unite?
Opera Unite is basically offering people a simple way to share content, photos and files in general, by embedding a web server directly into the Opera web browser. This is to get around common problems with making two computers talk to each other, and to avoid having your content saved on some third-party server or provider; instead, it puts you as a user directly in control of the content.
You get a URL to share to anyone to access your content, and the offerings can also be extended, by you (or someone else) writing their own service for Opera Unite.
What you need to share
Currently, what you need to share content is an alpha build of Opera Unite and a My Opera account:
- Opera Unite build for Windows (direct download link)
- Opera Unite build for Mac (direct download link)
- Opera Unite build for Linux/Unix (direct download link)
Oh, and you need some friend(s) to connect to, as well…
Common questions and wonderings
Here I want to go over the frequently asked questions, by me and others, and also give a clear answer to some possible misconceptions. I know some people working for Opera, and have had the opportunity to get some good and direct answers and clues.
Do I really need a My Opera account?
It has been understood by most that to share content, and to complement Opera Unite, you need a My Opera account, and that everything shared has to go through the Opera proxy server. You do need the account, but you can avoid using the Opera proxy server if you want to. In the article Setting up custom domains for Opera Unite, you can find out how to use any other domain name.
Can anyone access my content?
Anyone who you have given the URL to can access what you share. They don’t have to have an Opera web browser or a My Opera account.
Is anything saved online?
Nope, nothing. The idea with Opera Unite is to have two computers connected directly to each other, and if you use a domain name of your own, there’s really no middle hand.
What if I actually do want to save something online?
Some people like the safety of having pictures etc saved on a remote server, or in the cloud, if you will. This is not offered by default, but if you want to, you can develop an Opera Widget, as an Opera Unite service, to automate saving to a third party.
Why is having my content via Opera Unite and My Opera better or more trust-worthy than services in the cloud?
This is more a matter of preference than anything else. If you trust and like services like Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox etc, that’s just fine. But if you prefer just having the content on your machine, then Opera Unite might be an option for you.
Will this ever be available in other web browsers/without any Opera connection?
I can’t give any promises or details, but rumors hint at this possibly becoming open-source (Yay!).
Can I use Opera Unite behind proxy servers?
My own attempts with this have failed, but you might be successful by using some of the suggestions in the Setting up custom domains for Opera Unite article.
My opinions about Opera Unite
From my own needs, Opera Unite probably won’t fill a gap or any need I have. However, especially for people not too tech-savvy, I believe it could be very useful. It is very easy to set up, and from the tests I have done with it, it has worked remarkably well (kudos to the technical team for an excellent release!).
Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with saving things online, and I prefer the security of having my content backed up in various locations. That way, if I lose my computer/backup drive, something crashes etc, I have the security of always having it elsewhere. I like accessing or sharing content, no matter which computer I’m using. With Opera Unite, I don’t get that at all.
Therefore, from my perspective, a huge downside of Opera Unite is that my shared content is only available when my computer is running. I don’t know about you, but I only use laptops, and when I’m done with that I want to do, I close the lid and put it away.
Last, but not least, while the technology and approach is interesting, I have a problem with the Opera tie-in. Sure, I understand it is in their best interest, but the only way it would be interesting to me is if it were open-source, and available in any web browser of my choice (and naturally, with no need for My Opera or similar).
So, here’s to hoping that this will be available to anyone under their own terms.
What’s your thoughts or questions on Opera Unite?