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Sunday, 21 June 2009 08:27

Opera web browser re-invents meaning of word "re-invent"

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Opera gained fame for being a featured web browser that consumed a minimum of memory. It fit on a floppy disk, and it ran on mobile devices. Trying to regain a place in the spotlight, Opera announced it would be re-inventing the web. Now that its secret is out I am underwhelmed.

Specifically, Opera’s new invention is titled Opera Unite and is available in alpha form with Opera version 10, downloadable from Opera’s web site.

iTWire colleague David Heath has already explained the central point behind Opera Unite, namely turning the web browser into a web server.

Specifically, Opera Unite offers users an expanding library of peer-to-peer facilities. One of these allows the self-publishing of your own web sites without needing to set up a web host or upload files to it.

Of course, if your computer is turned off or you are not running Opera Unite then these pages will not be served.

Similarly, Opera Unite will allow you to share files, photos and music to friends or Internet strangers, along with hosting your own chat room and notice board (known as the “fridge.”)

I don’t doubt there is utility in these services. Opera should be commended for thinking about how to allow ordinary folk to easily share photos and files with family and friends (assuming the hoster’s upload bandwidth doesn’t make it a punishing experience.)

Yet, I don’t find this worthy of the lofty claim that the Internet has been re-invented. No new protocol has been devised, and in fact plug-ins have already existed for Firefox to allow sharing from within the browser.

What’s more, the technology is fundamentally insecure. There is no provision for encryption via a secure socket layer (SSL.)

Content can be password protected, but this password must be embedded within the URL your visitors will use. By necessity the password will be revealed in plaintext to anyone and largely provides security solely by obscurity.

Of course, undoubtedly Opera’s chief goal was to get some buzz around Opera and get downloads and market share. In this respect I’m sure Opera Unite will be successful.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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