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Uniting by dividing
June 16, 2009 2:11 AM   Subscribe

Opera, the inventor of tabbed browsing who just won't quit, today released a trial version of Unite, a dramatic attempt to reverse the centralization of the web as well as Opera's own decreasing relevance in a market dominated by far larger companies

Unite is basically a one-click way of running web applications (aka services) on your local machine. The services are written in JavaScript and interact with a basic library built into Opera. There's API documentation available for writing your own services, which can then be distributed much like FireFox extensions. Opera has already released services for running a file server, media player, and more

Many home users now have always-on computers with robust operating systems and faster hardware and uplinks than hosted servers had just a few years ago. Is this the beginning of a newer, more decentralized web?
posted by crayz (78 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The only problem I have with decentralizing the net is that the vast majority of people don't have any content to share. It's gone from people sharing cool stuff they've come up with to people looking at content a relative minority has created- from being actively participatory to being vicarious.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:17 AM on June 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Is this the beginning of a newer, more decentralized web?

Given that all these services are only accessible via *.unite.opera.com: probably not.
posted by flabdablet at 2:31 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm very curious as to how this will go - it certainly is an interesting move.

One thing that isn't immediately clear from the text of the FPP is that traffic will go through Opera proxies. This means Opera will essentially become a services company if Unite takes off in a large way, and gives them all sorts of ways to monetize it if they choose to do so.

A slight rise in Tinfoil Headgear futures is also predicted, although we have probably been desensitized that sort of thing by now.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:32 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most ISPs (at least the ones around here) are pretty dead set againt serving content off a residential DSL line.
posted by PenDevil at 2:36 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The reddit thread is pretty informative, with one of the Unite authors (user Arve) answering many questions.
posted by knave at 2:38 AM on June 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'd certainly much rather host such stuff as I do feel a need to share on cheap rented cloud storage than reduce the available bandwidth of my home connection by hosting it at home.
posted by flabdablet at 2:41 AM on June 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't think that running apps on the local machine is really the way to go. I've done that in the past and it always ended up being a huge headache to know people were actually using resources that you had to keep running. I guess if it was just my friends it wouldn't be as big of a deal, but knowing my friends couldn't get my 'tweets' or whatever because the power flicked at my apartment would be annoying (well, I have a UPS now, but still)

I think what I would like to see is more people run their own virtual servers. You can get them pretty cheaply these days.
posted by delmoi at 2:41 AM on June 16, 2009


Most ISPs (at least the ones around here) are pretty dead set against serving content off a residential DSL line.

That's such bullshit. In fact, wouldn't that violate network neutrality regulations?
posted by delmoi at 2:43 AM on June 16, 2009


It's a marketing thing. "Opera" doesn't test as well as the "HipHop" or "Electronica" browsers.

Opera. Yeah... I can relate to the Opera meme. Because I like opera. Otherwise, not so much.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:44 AM on June 16, 2009


Temporary, ad-hoc services among a circle of friends/users like the examples Opera throws out there (my emphasis):
Think of multiplayer games, from simple two-player challenges like Chess up to sprawling RPGs. And Opera Unite is not just about fun. Think about collaborative applications such as spreadsheets, documents or Wikis, which you can work on with friends and colleagues without having to host them on a third-party site such as Google Spreadsheets or installing specialized applications on a dedicated server. You could use reverse Ajax or “COMET” techniques to mean that all the updates are seen on everyone’s computers in real time; multiple people could make changes at once, without having to lock people out.
Hell yes. Maybe.
posted by Glee at 2:55 AM on June 16, 2009


dunkadunc The only problem I have with decentralizing the net is that the vast majority of people don't have any content to share

I disagree with this. The major lesson of web 2.0 is to build sites almost entirely on user-generated content. You or I may not find the content made by most users to be valuable, but nor do I find valuable most of the content on FaceBook or YouTube or Twitter. Much of the art of building a successful website today is finding ways to accept vast quantities of data and figuring out what your users will want to see

Right off the bat, this is going to be used by people to share files with friends. Much easier than e-mailing or uploading to some 3rd party site. Beyond that, I think like any potentially disruptive technology its hard to predict what it might be used for
posted by crayz at 2:55 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


delmoi: You might want to look at where PenDevil is. It's similar in Australia.
posted by sien at 2:57 AM on June 16, 2009


Right off the bat, this is going to be used by people to share files with friends.

One of the first showcase apps on Opera Unite: a Media Player:
... Run the Opera Unite Media Player at home and access your entire music library from anywhere you might be. No need to duplicate your music on different machines.

Note: Please respect artists. Only share content if you have the right to do so.
posted by Glee at 3:00 AM on June 16, 2009


A heads-up from the reddit thread linked by knave, which has a lot of interesting information: Use of Opera proxies is optional, if your router supports UPnP - you can even use your own domain name.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:01 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


You or I may not find the content made by most users to be valuable, but nor do I find valuable most of the content on FaceBook or YouTube or Twitter.

Good point. And that's the thing- all of these services are only as good as the people you're interacting with, as the situation in Iran with Twitter has shown.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:08 AM on June 16, 2009


Too late for Opera. Twitter has already revolutionized everything.

Seriously, though, I think this twitter obsession by the American media and blogosphere is so overblown. I don't believe the Iranian uprising is *primarily* being staged on twitter at all. That's just how Andrew Sullivan and his like see the world. It's how they feel they are participating.

So we are seeing massively overblown claims for the importance of Twitter this week.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:19 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Opera has come up with an absolutely brilliant solution to the problem of... er...

...to a problem nobody was having.

I run web sites for a living, and yes, I have more powerful machines than my web server at home. In fact I have five or six, including my laptop. But no silly browser-based product is going to change the fact that at-home bandwidth doesn't compare to server bandwidth.

I'll admit that this would be useful for small, ad-hoc services like playing games with friends or filesharing - although very simple servers already exist for things like that. And besides, they're going to have to solve Opera's market share problem before anyone will even care.
Otherwise it's just a great idea in the same way that beta VCRs were a great idea.
posted by mmoncur at 3:31 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's such bullshit. In fact, wouldn't that violate network neutrality regulations?

That's funny; my Comcast terms of service include this among the things I'm prohibited from doing with their service:

"use or run dedicated, stand-alone equipment or servers from the Premises that provide network content or any other services to anyone outside of your Premises local area network (“Premises LAN”), also commonly referred to as public services or servers. Examples of prohibited equipment and servers include, but are not limited to, e-mail, Web hosting, file sharing, and proxy services and servers;"

I haven't looked at the ToS from the other large ISPs in the US, but I expect that most of them have a similar clause.
posted by sriracha at 3:43 AM on June 16, 2009


This is great. There's not nearly enough pipes already to inject malware into enduser machines. Deliberately created rules to bypass desktop firewalls and everything. Christmas.
posted by felch at 3:49 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's such bullshit. In fact, wouldn't that violate network neutrality regulations?

Ain't no network neutrality here in Africa buddy.
posted by PenDevil at 3:51 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


You guys suggesting this will open up avenues for malware, etc. sound like you're making technical criticisms, but I would suggest that they're unfounded. The current/upcoming generation of web browsers(i.e. FF 3.5/Safari 4/Chrome 3/Opera 10) already support some/much of HTML5 specs, i.e. you can run multi-threaded javascript, store offline data in sqlite, make HTTP requests through javascript(i.e. Ajax), etc.

This is really not doing anything that different - it just turns the client into a server. But client/server roles are to some extent subjective and mushy anyway. How is this less secure than, say, a Firefox extension, which has access to the same basic environment and technologies? In fact I'd hazard to say it would be possible or near-possible to write a websever much like Unite as a Firefox extension

Yes, if someone figures out how to exploit Opera's JS runtime, bad things might happen. But that's already true of any web page you browse to

Can the people saying this is a gaping security hole actually explain, in technical detail, what makes you think that?
posted by crayz at 4:07 AM on June 16, 2009


crayz: while it may be the case that someone could theoretically write a firefox plugin to do what Opera does today, Firefox does not do it today, so it is actually something that different.
posted by honest knave at 4:11 AM on June 16, 2009


Opera has come up with an absolutely brilliant solution to the problem of... er...
...to a problem nobody was having.
I think you mean twitter, not Opera.

Opera's own decreasing relevance in a market dominated by far larger companies

You sir, are misinformed.

On the desktop market Opera Inc seems to be doing just fine, slow but steady growth is acceptable and good business. Opera knows that it isn't going to overtake any of the builtin browsers - IE, Firefox (Firefox is pretty much a built-in for the Linux crowd), or Safari - and it's fine with that. Opera is the innovator in the browsing experience on the desktop. It's introduced more things that are standard on browsers now then any other company (tabbed browsing, tabbed thumbnails, just recently Safari 4.0 copied SpeedDial). They are usually the first in standards compliance. There is more goodness baked-in to Opera than any other browser.

In the mobile and appliance market Opera is the dominant browser in all devices except the Iphone/touch - but that's only because Apple won't allow any other browser to be installed on the device. (The other browsers in the App store are basically just safari skins with a little more functionality.) If you haven't used the Opera browser on your phone, you are in for a treat. Even a crappy Razr can be a suitable internet device because of Opera.

Opera's is relevant because it innovates, it is compliant, it is the most accessible Browser for those with disabilities (if you have RSI get this browser and say goodbye to your mouse), it is stable, and it is fast. With Turbo Mode coming out in Opera 10, there is going to be some more renewed interest on the slower (dialup) camps. Opera is far from done making the web better a better place for all, even if you don't use Opera.
posted by bigmusic at 4:13 AM on June 16, 2009 [17 favorites]


Seriously, though, I think this twitter obsession by the American media and blogosphere is so overblown. I don't believe the Iranian uprising is *primarily* being staged on twitter at all. That's just how Andrew Sullivan and his like see the world. It's how they feel they are participating.

Where it's shining (and yes, I hate to admit this) is in disseminating realtime information out of the country. You never get this kind of real time, mass information with revolutions like this. Because of it, we all know what's happening, or at least we see individual microlevel snippets. I think it's really helping to keep people in the outside world interested and engaged. And of course the uploaded videos and photos are proof of whats happening.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 AM on June 16, 2009


This sounds like it's going to be the geocities of the 21st century. How long until the first Unite FPP link points to some guy's desktop that turns off when he goes to bed?
posted by DU at 4:44 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


While my upload barely makes it past 200k, I'm not going to ask my friends to try and endure using sites hosted at the end of my pipe at home.

ADSL is what really kills ideas like this, because it assumes that people are going to want to take more than they give. Perhaps that's a fair assumption, but it's also a self-perpetuating one.
posted by fightorflight at 4:48 AM on June 16, 2009


That's such bullshit. In fact, wouldn't that violate network neutrality regulations?

Yeah, er, delmoi -- a) what regulations? and b) not sure how they roll in your neck of the woods, but any ISP I've seen be it DSL/Cable/dialup has had a ToS saying you can't serve.

Not that I wouldn't like to be able to serve stuff -- I'd also like to have 1.5MBit or more upstream -- but, well, just surprised to find you surprised by this..
posted by cavalier at 5:08 AM on June 16, 2009


Right off the bat, this is going to be used by people to share files with friends.

One of the first showcase apps on Opera Unite: a Media Player:
... Run the Opera Unite Media Player at home and access your entire music library from anywhere you might be. No need to duplicate your music on different machines.

Note: Please respect artists. Only share content if you have the right to do so.


Why would I go out and leave my computer switched on? That's a massive waste of energy.
posted by idiomatika at 5:08 AM on June 16, 2009


I'll give this a trial run at my studio. It would be nice to have a trivial-to-manage way of getting images uploaded from customers. N.B. FTP ain't trivial; when people have got used to Flickr, anything less is archaic and unsalable.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:13 AM on June 16, 2009


Interesting. I look forward to seeing where this goes, if it takes off.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:15 AM on June 16, 2009


@crayz Opera has deliberately created an extensible server component within their browser codebase. This is far different than plugins or javascript-based services. Granted, you have to enable this new server component and make deliberate choices to further enable certain features, but the mere fact that it is part of the browser makes it something far more exploitable (i.e. enabled and misued by malware exploiting a buffer overflow) and nefariously useful than your examples.

I highly doubt this new version of Opera will be immune from software bugs, so exploits *will* happen. I highly doubt (I will have time to play with it later tonight) that the Opera developers have created a sophisticated sandbox environment for it, especially since it it multi-platform, so it will have as much system reign as your security software & operating system protections allow.

I use a great number of platforms on any given day and my first reaction was "ho-hum, Apple provides most of this functionality out of the box". But, it quickly sunk in that Opera has brought a great deal of capabilities to "regular" users regardless of platform...many of which have no clue as to what they are opening themselves up to by enabling and using it.

If this release gets sufficient media attention, the initial install base will be pretty big and we should get an initial idea of what folks want to use it for (I suspect the file sharing component - which you point out - will be one of the first features enabled). We should start seeing exploits in short order as well.

To recap: I believe I am justifiably concerned from a security perspective and definitely intrigued from a "what's next" perspective.
posted by hrbrmstr at 5:21 AM on June 16, 2009


Not to start some kind of war, but to say that Opera "invented" tabbed browsing is a complete fabrication. The Amiga browser iBrowse had them before (in 1999), and there was an IE shell called NetCaptor which also had tabs, although I can't remember which came first. There was also a Mozilla extension that added tabs to Mozilla.

I'm not saying that Opera wasn't an early adopter of tabs, I'm just saying that there were by no means the inventor of them.
posted by grahams at 5:28 AM on June 16, 2009


What I'd like to see is a file sharing platform somewhere between Soulseek and Facebook.
People could find each other using searchable public profiles online (which Soulseek doesn't have right now), and they can browse each other's files only after adding each other to their friends list.
It would get rid of most of the RIAA problems immediately, because you would have to add a RIAA snitch to your friends list to be caught sharing.
The drawback would be that there wouldn't be nearly as much searchable material online at any given time, but I would imagine it would be pretty good for distributing more obscure stuff in one's social circle.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:33 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


You can think of this Opera Unite business as a p2p platform as opposed to yet another p2p app. That is certainly very interesting and can open up a few categories of apps that haven't been possible (or viable): anything that requires that large data be shared between peers (why upload all of your photos to flickr if grandma can see thumbnails of everything and then download just the ones she wants?) or anything that requires data people would rather not upload to a central server (pirated media mainly but also some business data). Definitely interesting, but I think the niche is too constrained by the vast number of apps that will work just as well with a central web server, so I am guessing that like Opera the browser, it will be successful in some niche applications but not in widespread use.
posted by costas at 5:40 AM on June 16, 2009


To recap: I believe I am justifiably concerned from a security perspective and definitely intrigued from a "what's next" perspective.

This has been sound policy for every new home-networking tech roll-out from the 300-baud modem on.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:43 AM on June 16, 2009


hrbrmstr - Other than the actual "engine" running the webserver, which I assume may be written in C, any "service" code you're able to run is in fact written in JavaScript. So, the only two attack vectors that I can see are:
* sending a malformed request to exploit the server itself (i.e. not 3rd party code)
* exploiting the JavaScript VM

The latter can already be done by any webpage - just get an Opera user to go to the page. It will be a lot easier than writing an app containing the exploit and getting it approved and uploaded to Opera's website

And for the former, unless you're doing your own DNS, all requests go through an Opera proxy, so they may already filter the requests for malformed data, or could turn on such filtering to apply to all "sites" if any vulnerability came up. Regardless, it's much less concerning than arbitrary scripts running as your user

This isn't like they embedded Apache in the browser and are letting you run arbitrary CGI scripts
posted by crayz at 5:47 AM on June 16, 2009


Crayz: This is really not doing anything that different - it just turns the client into a server. But client/server roles are to some extent subjective and mushy anyway... Can the people saying this is a gaping security hole actually explain, in technical detail, what makes you think that?

Most client firewalls are based on the idea of stateful inspection. To quote from the link - The firewall is programmed to distinguish legitimate packets for different types of connections. Only packets matching a known connection state will be allowed by the firewall; others will be rejected. Known and legitimate connections are those initiated by the user inside the firewall (you). Inbound web requests from outside are therefore blocked by stateful inspection, as you have not initiated them. So, you will need to override the firewall rules responsible to allow essentially random inbound web requests of unknown origin. Beginners will get frustrated because Opera is not working as a web server for them, "Oh, it has to be the firewall" and will start opening up ports and protocols and whatever else they can find until it starts working, at which point they'll forget about all the changes they've made and leave it at that. That's when the script kiddies start to get erections.
posted by felch at 6:22 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well this reminds of me of the wave of apps that emerged post-napster. There was a class of apps that were peer to peer based and they were also social software. They let you share but also chat in realtime to people who had discovered your shared files and were downloading them. It is very easy to strike up conversations with people who have good taste :P

I think all those apps must have been bought out, shutdown or just withered away when bittorrent took off. I'm sure some of the software morphed into server side solutions like audioscrobbler/Last.fm which is great but still, there was something more personal about hearing the hard drive tick away copying the bits while chatting with the latest visitor in the chat channel.

Thats was back in the old days around 2002/2003.
posted by vicx at 6:36 AM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Interesting. It's like how a multiplayer game first connects with a proxy, before the peer-to-peer traffic starts up. Like Battle.net.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:42 AM on June 16, 2009


I guess my question as a technical user is "why?"

If you're technically savvy enough to write a Unite service, you're technically savvy enough to set up a W/LAMP environment that will let you do pretty much the same thing, with a large library of already-developed web services to choose from.

But I admit that is just a first impression.
posted by moonbiter at 6:42 AM on June 16, 2009


vicx: That sounds kind of like Soulseek, which as far as I know is going strong (although their client software is ancient). It's pretty much limited to obscure electronic music nerds and stuff from indie labels so it never got shut down.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:44 AM on June 16, 2009


grahams: I'm not saying that Opera wasn't an early adopter of tabs, I'm just saying that there were by no means the inventor of them.
It seems Opera had the basic feature (an MDI-style interface allowing multiple web pages/sessions to be open in one application instance), if not the cosmetics, from the version 1 beta, circa 1994.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:51 AM on June 16, 2009


Isn't this essentially the same thing as Dashboard/Yahoo/Google widgets but with the server accessible via the net to external clients?
posted by tommasz at 7:07 AM on June 16, 2009


I'm not saying that Opera wasn't an early adopter of tabs, I'm just saying that there were by no means the inventor of them.

Yeah, that's what wikipedia says, but I can't find any evidence anywhere of iBrowse or NetCaptor having tabbed browsing in those early days. Just them bragging saying that they had it first.

I found this though - InternetWorks on OS/2 having tabbed browsing back in 1994.
posted by bigmusic at 7:11 AM on June 16, 2009


The problem with relying on your personal computer is that it is not hardened against fault tolerance as even a basic server. I run a Windows2k3 instance as my file server because I need to access my files from a variety of devices. If I were to run it off my main computer I'd have to turn off all the sleep features and I'd be pretty pissed off if, when I'm away, Adobe 9 decides to run an automated update and crashes my computer (restart without signing back in, a multitude of things). The point with a server is I can take a least-needed approach and have a greater degree over what processes run, not having to worry if Zombies vs Plants had a memory leak in the 19th level.

So the point being, I can see a lot of people frusterated by a lack of reliability that comes when you create what essentially is a platform over an existing operating system. The first couple of times you try to connect in and get to your shared documents but you can't, suddenly the reliability plummets to doing things however you were and not using Opera Unite at all.

Unless, of course, I'm completely missing the point of this.
posted by geoff. at 7:28 AM on June 16, 2009


Here's a chance to see an app at work - leave a note on my fridge.
posted by bigmusic at 7:43 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most ISPs (at least the ones around here) are pretty dead set against serving content off a residential DSL line.

That's such bullshit. In fact, wouldn't that violate network neutrality regulations?


When I first signed up for Roadrunner (I haven't looked to see if it's been amended lately) it was technically against the T.O.S. contract for me to run OS X because it comes with Apache built in, and there was a clause about connecting computers capable of functioning as servers. ISPs in general display varying amounts of boldness at throttling upstream bandwidth, including port-blocking, so I don't see how this would violate any regulations, unless the regulators just don't care, & haven't for 10 years.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:05 AM on June 16, 2009


The major lesson of the internet web 2.0 is to build sites almost entirely on user-generated content.

Hint, people were building structures built around user-generated content long before Berners-Lee developed a lingua franca for it, and certainly well before O'Reilly needed a marketing buzzphrase
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:09 AM on June 16, 2009


Judging from the tiny fridge, bigmusic apparently lives in a motel room.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:23 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Western Infidels: It seems Opera had the basic feature (an MDI-style interface allowing multiple web pages/sessions to be open in one application instance), if not the cosmetics, from the version 1 beta, circa 1994.

MDI is not tabs... There is little difference between Netscape (at the time) having multiple windows open in a single application instance and Opera 1 having multiple windows inside a single frame.

What tabs brought to the table, imho, was the ease of switching between open web pages without resorting to window management. If you think that having 20 tabs open can be unwieldy, try 20 MDI frames.

In my opinion, beyond Opera, MDI was never a good idea, and being that almost every vendor now shies away from using MDI, I suspect that the market agrees with me.
posted by grahams at 8:45 AM on June 16, 2009


> You can think of this Opera Unite business as a p2p platform as opposed to yet another p2p app.

Specifically, it's an interesting variation on the notion of browser as application environment, in parallel with (but not the same as) Palm's WebOS. Instead of simply receiving and processing information in cooperation with a central server, it can become a peer among many low-impact client/server units.

Apple and Google have been approaching this from the principle of website-as-app, redesigning the Safari and Chrome UIs to optimize the screen area available for the website-executable. The beta version of Safari 4 even collapsed the tabs into the title bar to buy an extra two dozen pixels of space. (If you want a website behaving even more like an app on your desktop, you can even use Fluid or Prism) The current specs war between Apple, Firefox and Google over Javascript speed is fully a part of this re-evaluation of the future of the browser -- the faster your browser runs benchmarks, the more it can act like a full-fledged word processor, and the readier it becomes for the inevitable port of Doom II.

Internet Explorer is so far behind the rest of the browser world it's appalling. Opera, Palm, Google and Apple are shipping web browsers for handheld phones that can do more than IE 8; Microsoft's mobile web browsers are pathetically retrograde by current standards.
posted by ardgedee at 9:05 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hint, people were building structures built around user-generated content long before Berners-Lee developed a lingua franca for it

Not on this scale, though. That's kind of like looking at the Empire State Building and saying, "Well, we've been building castles in Europe for over 1000 years long before your 'skyscraper' catchphrase."
posted by dw at 9:20 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


wanted: spartacus, an opera unite web proxy for iran
posted by homunculus at 9:39 AM on June 16, 2009


Decreasing relevance? I've been using Opera for years, and plan on continuing to do so for as long as it meets my needs. So Opera is extremely "relevant" in this household.

The subject of this FPP is very interesting, but its editorial slant is kind of lame.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


dw: Not on this scale, though. That's kind of like looking at the Empire State Building and saying, "Well, we've been building castles in Europe for over 1000 years long before your 'skyscraper' catchphrase."

Sure, but that's a function of the limited scale of LANs, business and academic networks prior to to the turn of the 21st century. The underlying innovations and theories go back before Web 2.0 became a buzzphrase. Before that, the buzzphrase was online communities, and before that CSCL and CSCW.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:14 AM on June 16, 2009


Generally speaking, the TOS that most ISPs employ will have language that restricts residential users from setting up servers. The cynical reason for this is that it drives business to their commercial departments which typically have a higher cost associated with the more reliable connection.

The less cynical reason is that when load balancing the plant/ network they are assuming that most customers will be using a certain amount of bandwidth with the associated peaks and valleys in terms of usage that go along with normal browsing patterns. People running servers makes it a lot harder to judge when network upgrades will be necessary.

The unofficial truth, at least with my company, is that while it's a part of the TOS, we really don't care. The only time it would come up would be if someone was being exceptionally problematic and the legal department was looking for a reason to suspend their service. The servers that most people are going to run are going to be so low bandwidth as to be virtually invisible, so no one really bothers investigating or looking for them, and when they are found, usually by a customer admitting to having one, we just suggest that they consider commercial services because it has more outbound bandwidth and same day response when dealing with line issues.
posted by quin at 10:20 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The only apps available now are ones for providing content -- not accepting it, as a true "sharing" system would allow. I think what's missing here is the collaborative aspect. I have a hundred ways of providing stuff to others; I have almost no ways of working together with others and I thought this would be that tool. I guess I'm just Jonesing for Wave, but I don't see anything really exciting here at present. Maybe the platform is good, but the current apps are same-old-sausage.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:22 AM on June 16, 2009


Judging from the tiny fridge, bigmusic apparently lives in a motel room.

It times out for me now, so either that's a great example of why 'server in a brower' is a bad idea, or his fridge has just crashed.
posted by rokusan at 11:01 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yo dawg, we heard you like websites, so we put a web server in yo web browser so you can serve while you surf.
posted by signalnine at 11:21 AM on June 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


that's just weird signalnine.
posted by bigmusic at 11:31 AM on June 16, 2009


It /was/ kind of obvious.
posted by signalnine at 11:37 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this is quite a cool idea; it's not there to replace a permanent presence - facebook and flickr won't be quaking in their boots over this. What it does do is allow an easy, point-and-click collaborative experience when you're at your pc, with no need to setup a permanent website, ftp server or streaming media server.

Say you want to send a large file to someone now; you can't send it via email, so you setup a dropbox, upload the file, send them the link. Which is fine, if it's under 2GB, and you don't mind waiting for the time it takes to upload before you send them the link. Instead, you can just slap up a quck link in your browser with a couple of clicks, and they can start downloading straight away. Hopefully it'll be a bit more reliable than peer-to-peer downloading in messenger or the like.

Say you want to give granny access to your holiday photos today, without going to the effort of sharing them with the world via flickr; or zipping them up and sticking them on dropbox. Or you want to access your home music collection while at work; it's too big to stick on dropbox in total without paying for it, or take with you to store at work, and setting up an ftp server or home vpn access is a drag, so you just leave your home pc on and stream it via the media player - which plenty of people do anyway to download stuff.

It's having your own personal webserver with unlimited storage and bandwidth, without all the grief and setup hassles of home-hosting apache or the like - merely using your existing hardware and setup, with a simple-to-use interface. How soon before some sort of friends-based soulseek is setup, so you can index and share your music with your buddies completely under the radar?

Or setup your own web-based multiplayer games, instead of being stuck with yahoo or messenger's ones?

I wanted to setup my own self-hosted version of dropbox the other day for transient access to share a modified iso with a friend, without having to pay for dropbox to host it, or wait for it to upload. I can sftp or vpn into my own network and NAS from work ok, but that's an all-or-nothing approach, and I don't want to open everything up. I could have built an ftp server with just a subset of access, but it's not like I need one very often, and I never got round to going to the effort of building a dedicated box just for that. I didn't find anything equivalent to a self-hosted dropbox, so we just gave up in the end.

This would have been perfect. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on it to see what other right-now share-this applications they come up with.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:46 PM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know if anyone reads this far down, especially regarding budding new techs from Opera...

But I have to pipe in and say that in a design, mobile photography, timesheet, sharing, and budgeting sense, along with opera's mobile dominance...this could be killer!

Imagine you're a producer with a limited budget. Imagine all of your buyers/associates/workers have Opera on the cellphone. You fan out your crew and they start acquiring the services, personnel, materials, etc required for the project. Every time they finalize something, they enter the personal details and total cost to this "Opera unity app". Now, the producer has full access to a real-time project sheet that already lists the employees/materials/rentals and their costs. Now imagine that it can be split into the "materials", "personnel", "rentals", "advertising", etc. Now add live chat. Now pretend that this can all be served from a laptop computer in the field through cellphones and wifi.

Is that not...exciting? Liberating? Efficient? If I had any idea how to program, I would be creating this app as we speak...

I'd especially like to touch on "timesheet". I work in a business where time is money, but clients are getting charged for things that "aren't physical"; i.e., there's no quantifiable result during the organization and pre-planning stage. If a client can just type in a web-address and see in real-time what we're up to...that can really save everyone time and money.

It could also make for really a really interesting "Scrapbook" site, but one that there's no requirement to sign up for Face-tweet-bucket-share.

Opera's idea here could be used to create the Twitter-ish "cloud event" or whatever where an event (Canada Day, Edmonton, i.e.) does the Facebook "photoalbum" *but* it shows all the relevant photos, movies, chats, posts from your circle of friends who access the Unity site. Then you have a record of the day that you can then "close" and "reopen a new one" when it's "Long weekend camping trip 2009". Yes, everyone likes to look through the memories but doing it one person at a time is really lame. I want to see *everything* that happened from all perspectives, and I want it on my terms!

I guess that's what Opera Unity means to me at this point. It sounds fun. Maybe I should get a programmer friend and start vendoring apps for Unity ;P

KZ
posted by Khazk at 2:46 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, to copy and paste a quote from Lawrence Eng's Opera Labs "Unite" release statement:

"Currently, most of us contribute content to the Web (for example by putting our personal information on social networking sites, uploading photos to Flickr, or maybe publishing blog posts), but[...]

Our computers are only dumb terminals connected to other computers (meaning servers) owned by other people — such as large corporations — who we depend upon to host our words, thoughts, and images. We depend on them to do it well and with our best interests at heart. We place our trust in these third parties, and we hope for the best, but as long as our own computers are not first class citizens on the Web, we are merely tenants, and hosting companies are the landlords of the Internet.

Social networking is important, but who owns it — the online real estate and all the content we share on it? How much control over our words, photos, and identities are we giving up by using someone else’s site for our personal information? How dependent have we become?"

This is a little fruity, but quite relevant, especially as he goes on to explain that if gmail went "down", how screwed I would be personally.

It's a good read at http://labs.opera.com/news/2009/06/16/
posted by Khazk at 3:14 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Khazk, you can do all that today with regular old cell phones, regular old web browsers, and a $3 account at Dreamhost. As a bonus, it actually keeps working when you close your laptop.

Replacing the web host, if only in certain ways, is fixing the one part of the internet that's cheap and works already.

All I imagine from this are really, really slick credit card phishing schemes.
posted by rokusan at 3:41 PM on June 16, 2009


Sure, but that's a function of the limited scale of LANs, business and academic networks prior to to the turn of the 21st century. The underlying innovations and theories go back before Web 2.0 became a buzzphrase.

Wait, are you talking about the World Wide Web (in citing Berners-Lee) or were you talking about Web 2.0? Because while I agree that Web 2.0 is overblown marketing hype, the Web itself has fundamentally altered how people create and consume content.
posted by dw at 3:55 PM on June 16, 2009


@ rokusan: I get that.

Currently these apps and Unite is only available for PC use as an extension to the Opera web browser. And I can see how "ain't broke no fix" might apply. However, if this is just a test, then I have no doubts that they'll be testing it on cells next. I'm pretty sure we can all agree that running jukebox servers from an iphone would be cool.

In my case, however, a simple Unite file sharing app saves me from starting up an FTP server on my laptop. It saves me blowing an hour or so uploading 200MB of raw photos to my web host. It saves me having to create a small webpage or explain to people how to p2p to grab my files. It's multi-platform. It works on cell phones. It's part of a web-browser. I'm using my browser more than any other program. It might as well be on all the time anyway, so why not create a simple file hosting program?

I avoid having to upload my files to a server that I don't own (and possibly would rather not post my items to...Facebook, ex.). I don't have to send crap through IRC or MSN or rapidshare or who knows.

To me, the marginal increase in "overall internet revolutionization" is more than made up for in the huge reduction of hassle it is FOR ME (maybe not necessarily the friends that might want to look at this stuff on the weekends when my laptop is closed...)

Then again, aren't Macs these days capable of running on less power than a standard light bulb? A little better than Facebook's/Google's/YouTube's megawatt-hour gulping multi-redundant file servers. Maybe not. Whatever.
posted by Khazk at 5:08 PM on June 16, 2009


Interesting Khazk. you would have loved Groove. It was exactly what you are talking about right there but with encryptuion, sync, gui, authentication, group management and app distribution built-in.

Bascially it was Lotus Notes in a peer to peer IM client format.

How cool was Groove? It got bought out by Microsoft and the founder Ray Ozzie replaced Bill Gates as Chief Software Architect at Microsoft.

Now its this -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Groove

It's a damn shame what happens to software in this bad old world.
posted by vicx at 6:10 PM on June 16, 2009


Opera's own decreasing relevance in a market dominated by far larger companies

Not true.

Given that all these services are only accessible via *.unite.opera.com: probably not.

Not true.

One thing that isn't immediately clear from the text of the FPP is that traffic will go through Opera proxies.

Not true.

Opera has come up with an absolutely brilliant solution to the problem of... er... to a problem nobody was having.

I'll admit that this would be useful for small, ad-hoc services like playing games with friends or filesharing - although very simple servers already exist for things like that.


Self-contradict much?

There's not nearly enough pipes already to inject malware into enduser machines. Deliberately created rules to bypass desktop firewalls and everything. Christmas.

Not true.

Why would I go out and leave my computer switched on? That's a massive waste of energy.

LOL. Yes, simply MASSIVE!!11! Say, did you drive today instead of walking?

If you're technically savvy enough to write a Unite service, you're technically savvy enough to set up a W/LAMP environment that will let you do pretty much the same thing, with a large library of already-developed web services to choose from.

True. OTOH, actually using a Unite service is as easy as installing a Widget. Which is easy.

Isn't this essentially the same thing as Dashboard/Yahoo/Google widgets but with the server accessible via the net to external clients?

I believe this is essentially true.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:41 PM on June 16, 2009


Now for some explanations of that:

Opera makes most of its money, afaik, by licensing its software for use on cell phones, kiosks, embedded systems, etcetera. Their software runs on a bajillion platforms, and is the only browser that runs on a bajillion platforms. That you and I might use it on a PC is just a pleasant side-effect: it's not their bread-and-butter by a long shot.

So "dominated by far larger companies" isn't true except for the PC platform. On the cell networks and handheld devices networks, I believe Opera truly is dominant.

If your router supports UPnP (and if it's a modern router, it should), you will not be passing traffic through Opera's server proxy.

This is an extension of the Javascript "widgets" idea. Widgets are written using ECMAScript ("Javascript") and are subject to the usual sandboxing. If there is a security risk, it is a security risk that has been there all along. As Opera hasn't had a whole lot of security issues compared to, say, MSIE or Firefox, it's probably fair to say that United isn't going to be a huge hole in your system.

There is no bloody way this is intended to replace the likes of Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or other services. This is breaking relatively new ground: it provides a dead-easy way for people to make temporary service sites for use by your "monkey tribe."


So the real future-thinking part of Unite is this: what can you do with temporary, easy network services operating from a hand-held network device?

So far I think Khazk has come up with the closest ideas as to where this will go. It almost certainly will not be used for anything that we've seen so far: it makes no sense to use it in those capacities, as they require a full-time reliable host. This is all about making it easier to do on-the-fly monkey-tribe things.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:58 PM on June 16, 2009


Two comments, really:

1) I may be the only person in the world who uses Opera because of MDI. I find it infinitely superior to tabbed browsing as practiced by every other app out there.

2) What happens when, in the future, someone inevitably makes an Opera Unite service out of a Google Wave server? Singularity?
posted by nightchrome at 7:04 PM on June 16, 2009


If you'd like to see what's involved with setting up this Unite thing without actually installing Opera, take a gander here.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:32 PM on June 16, 2009


Also, you might be interested in Opera's Face Recognition Gestures Mode. It's like mouse gestures, but with your face. (Disabled for financial websites, and not recommended on adult websites.)
posted by five fresh fish at 7:35 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I may be the only person in the world who uses Opera because of MDI. I find it infinitely superior to tabbed browsing as practiced by every other app out there.

Me too! Been using Opera since 2001.
posted by the cydonian at 7:58 PM on June 16, 2009


vicx:

soulseek is exactly what you're talking about and it's still alive, well, and going strong.
posted by tehloki at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2009


Ok, this is amusing. Apple has a patent on Face Recognition Gestures.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:44 PM on June 18, 2009


Bascially it was Lotus Notes in a peer to peer IM client format.

Except that using Lotus Notes is a lot like pounding broken glass up your urethra.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:03 PM on June 18, 2009


What I've wanted to see, ever since Livejournal started to pull lots of crazy antics (admittedly since the SUP bought them, there's been less uproar in general), has been a decentralized/p2p style social network/blog system.

A basic webserver that you host for your content/blog posting, and your friends list is the connections to other peers. I've debated on distributed content, but that leads to other issues of security etc.

The big question as some people have noted is: what happens when the lights go off. That is, if my computer is off, how can my friends read my blog?

That's why I think the p2p part does come in somehow, but I'm not sure.

Funny thing. I'm using Opera for MeFi, because every single other browser I have crashes on me with it. I've posted to MeTa, but no-one has an idea. So it sucks, cuz I'm used to FF and prefer it, but hey... whatever. I think Opera has fine features and if I dug into it a bit more I'd appreciate it more.

That said, when I heard news of Unite, I did get a little excited for the potential.

I do host my own music server so I can stream to my work, but yes, Charter has a "no servers" policy. Never had a problem so far. If this takes off, ISPs might crack down, though.
posted by symbioid at 4:34 PM on June 20, 2009


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