Oslo (Norway) – Have you ever wondered why social networks today require third party servers to connect people, other than for the obvious financial reasons? The folks over at Opera thought about this as well and have come up with a solution. Social networks don not need third party servers anymore, a new build of Opera 10 effectively turns your client PC into a web server and social networking host.
The Opera browser never lacked innovative ideas. In fact several of the features we are used to today in Firefox or Internet Explorer have their origins in Opera. Yet, we typically do not take Opera seriously enough as a significant browser on the global stage, which is due to the fact that its market share is well below 1%. According to Net Applications the share currently hovers around 0.6 – 0.7% and never topped, at least to our knowledge, 1% in recent history. It is estimated that there are less than 10 million regular Opera users worldwide.
That said, it seems that the Opera developer team has moved past the speed and interface improvements the four largest browser developers are focused on at this time. Instead, there is a stunning new feature that, if offered by a much larger browser vendor, would have the potential to change the way we use the Internet today. In the case of Opera and its limited reach, we always have to be more conservative with those thoughts.
So, what is it?
It is called Opera Unite, offered in an experimental build of the Opera 10.0 browser, which treats the PC it is installed on not just as a client PC, but as a web server. The technology allows Opera users to build user networks on their own without having to rely on services run on third party servers. Developers can create software that runs on PCs with Opera Unite, enabling the creation of social networks.
At this time, Opera offers a limited range of applications to demonstrate the potential of the software, including a social music player, a file sharing application, photo sharing, instant messaging as well as a note sharing software. In a way, Opera’s approach goes against the current cloud computing trend, which relies on servers and services offered by third parties. Instead, Unite creates personal clouds among a closed user group.
We have had a chance to look at Unite for a few hours and are truly impressed by the idea and vision behind it. While it may not create social networks in the Facebook category, there is a clear use for families, clubs and other small organizations behind this technology, a technology that may simply be constrained by Opera’s limited reach. Mozilla, Google, Apple, Microsoft, are you guys watching?