June 20, 2009

Opera 'reinvents the Web'; Will anyone notice?

Opera on Tuesday unveiled technology it calls Opera Unite, which turns your plain old PC into a Web content server. Overall, the effort is quite innovative but with Opera’s browser market share it’s possible that no one will notice.

Depending on what market share tabulation survey you use Opera’s market share ranges from 1 percent to 2 percent. NetApplications puts Opera share at .72 percent. Google’s Chrome browser is pushing 2 percent, according to NetApplications.

Despite Opera’s share it’s a company worth watching. Its mobile browser is one of the best out there. And its Web browser is solid too. The problem? The browser battle is crowded and Opera can’t elbow its way into the dance.

Enter Opera Unite (Techmeme). The idea behind Opera Unite is to take the client-server computing model and toss it into a browser. Your computer can share content with other PCs on the Web without servers. This functionality would happen from within a special version of the Opera 10 browser.

Opera Unite has a series of services such as file sharing, Web server, media player, photo sharing, a chat service and a notes exchange. Opera is hoping developers will jump on the Unite bandwagon and add other services.

Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner says:

Technology moves in distinct cycles. PCs decentralized computing away from large mainframes. Opera Unite now decentralizes and democratizes the cloud. With server capability in the browser, Web developers can create Web applications with profound ease. Consumers have the flexibility to choose private and efficient ways of sharing information. We believe Opera Unite is one of our most significant innovations yet, because it changes forever the fundamental fabric of the Web.

Indeed, there are enough use cases for Unite to get me to take it for a spin. It’s a great idea.

However, this browser as a Web server concept is an innovation I see being picked up by other browsers. Can you imagine this approach bundled with Chrome, Gmail and other Google services? Wouldn’t Unite be great bundled as a Firefox add-on? Opera Unite will have a big impact, but the vision may be realized by browsers with more market share. Perhaps Unite puts Opera on the market share map, but don’t get your hopes up too high.

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