June 16, 2009, 7:57 AM — Today Opera launched its new Opera Unite service, promising to 'democratize the cloud,' according to CEO Jon von Tetzchner. Using a special version of the Opera web browser, Opera Unite turns any PC (Wndows, Mac OS X or Linux) into an easy-to-use web server. Run the browser, log in with an Opera ID, install some services and share the link with friends (or make the service private and access your PC remotely).
The services currently available are fairly basic (file sharing, photo sharing, media player, chat server, etc), but Opera product analyst Lawrence Eng calls these 'simple demos' and hints at much more to come. Additionally, web developers can create their own services and upload them to Opera's central repository for sharing with others. There's a primer available to help developers get started.
Opera Unite is an interesting concept, but I have mixed feelings about it. The first immediate concern, of course, is security. Any time you're inviting the public into your personal machine, you want to be very sure the application you're using to do so is secure. Presumably Opera has that covered, but I think I'll let the service cook for a few weeks before running it long term, just to be sure. My second concern is bandwidth. When I upload my photos to flickr I don't care if suddenly one of them becomes the latest internet meme; it's up to flickr's admins to worry about handling the bandwidth used by thousands of people suddenly trying to see that picture of my cat in a sundress. If, on the other hand, they're all accessing the image on my home computer, my bandwidth is going to tank and my ISP might start grumbling at me. Sure I can turn the service off, but that won't immediately stop clients from hitting my IP address looking for the image, nor will it help my cat's rise to fame.
Granted, for the majority of users this will never become a problem, but why leave your machine on 24/7 (think green, people!) to share files with a few friends when there're so many free services that will let you do the same thing and foot the bill for doing so?
We'll have to see what kinds of unique services Opera (and enthusiastic developers) come up with. When Unite offers something that I can't get elsewhere, I'll be more impressed. File sharing and a chat service aren't going to cut it.