Knowledgeable Windows users have known for years about the various security issues associated with Internet Explorer. Macintosh users quickly stumble across the shortcomings of the free Safari web browser. Users of both operating systems usually upgrade to better web browsers, namely Firefox or Opera. The producers of Opera have now released a major update that includes several features not found in any other web browser.
Opera 10.0, dubbed Opera Unite, radically extends what you are able to do online. The new version even includes a full-fledged Web server. You can use your Windows or Macintosh system as a web server while you continue to use the same system for all the other tasks you normally use.
Opera Unite also includes file sharing, photo sharing, a built-in chat room that you and your friends can use, a media player, and even a "fridge" where your friends can post notes to you and vice versa.
I had to think about that name: fridge. It refers to those notes that many families post to the front of their refrigerator. Opera Unite offers the electronic equivalent of those notes.
Opera Unite is currently available in a Beta release, along with a few applications to demonstrate the kind of functionality Opera thinks could become standard fare. The new release allows everyone to run their own host device, with their own applications running on their own hardware, which can then be accessed from anywhere using any web browser.
I can see this having huge benefits for genealogists who wish to share genealogy information, family photographs, images of source documents, recordings of baby's first words, and similar material with extended family members. Having your own web server may be a major advantage for those who are losing their free web sites on Geocities and other free hosting services or for anyone who doesn't want to have their personal web sites hosted on an advertising-laden service or doesn't want to be limited as to file sizes. Hosting your own web site on your own computer allows for the storage of thousands of web pages, all created as you wish, without displaying anyone else's advertising or subjecting yourself to anyone else's rules of what you can or cannot share. File sizes are generally limited only by the hardware in use.
File sharing is another obvious benefit: you can share family photographs, home movies, music of any sort, or almost anything else you wish. To do so, simply select the files you want the world to see and they instantly become available to everyone.
A new Opera Unite Jukebox allows you and your friends to select 10 audio tracks each, before combining them to produce a playlist that's shared amongst everyone. A Lounge provides a chat area, while the Fridge provides space to leave each other notes. Everything vanishes when your computer is switched off, however.
Another benefit would be a situation in which you want to send a huge file to someone else. Simply tell them, "The file will be available on my Opera server. Look for the name myfile" or whatever your file name is. This would be a great way of transferring video files that are too large to send by e-mail.
None of this is really new. You have been able to implement all of these functions for years with various other products if you wanted to go through the effort of finding the appropriate software products, downloading them, configuring, and making all those products play together. What is new in Opera Unite is the ease of installation in one convenient package: you can download it, install it, and have all that functionality working within minutes.
Routing is handled by servers at Opera, and the computer on your desk is addressed as "unite://computername.username.operaunite.com". Where possible, connections are peer-to-peer, in just the way that the internet was originally envisioned, but much routing will be through the Unite proxy. There is one significant limitation: the users at both ends of the connection will need to use Opera Unite in order to go to a web address that starts with "unite://..."
Of course, you will still want to be aware of both the technical and legal implications. Any computer still needs to be protected from viruses, malware (malevolent software), and external attacks of any sort. File sharing should only be used for files that you have a legal right to share. Nothing in this software will provide any new legal solutions.
You can learn more at http://unite.opera.com. You can also watch two different online videos that describe the new offering at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5hr-6cw4M8 and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-omonwFkkrY or click on the images below.