My Thoughts on Opera Unite

Coming a bit late but I wanted to jot down my thoughts on Opera Unite. My first thought, it is an awesome concept with the potential to change the way the Internet is used and also a huge boon for the us users, but in a different manner than envisaged by the Unite team. But I also feel it is a bit lacking as I will explain below.

As everyone knows, the current trend is in the world moving towards more larger social networks with growing interaction with new people, exposing more and more of their data for the whole world to consume. It is fundamentally a great thing because we move more and more towards the "global village, small world" concept. But it is also a fact of life that social networks are increasingly targeted by unsavory characters who look to gather data for malicious purposes (identity theft, spreading malware, pedophilia etc) or for collecting irrelevant data about prospective relationships (potential employers, spouses – especially in arranged marriages in India and neighbors).

With the increasing consumer awareness and legal requirements in some countries, these social networks have started to provide increasing privacy controls to ensure that your private data remains just that, private. But that is still an add-on. And most importantly, the social network has your data with whatever they feel like doing and keeping it for however long they want to.

This is were I think Opera Unite is a huge game changer. Imagine creating your own private social network, under your complete control. Only those you wish will have access to your data and only to the limits that you specify? Sounds good? It sure does to me.

So what is Opera Unite? It is essentially a web server implemented within the browser which allows other users to access any web-services that the web-server owner wishes to provide. Users find your system via a proxy (at operaunite.com). So a user visits an operaunite.com link (for example, mine is ajaxed.operaunite.com, not functional currently) and she or he is redirected to the web server which is running on my system inside Opera and access any service which I have enabled and allowed them access to.

And as a first cut, Opera Unite has decent privacy controls which allow the only specific or users with the right authorization to access those services via passwords embedded in the service URLs. Unite also comes with a few default services like photo sharing,  chat, file sharing etc.

So what’s my issue with Unite? The proxy I mentioned above. For two reason:

  1. It is a  single point of failure
  2. It is not truly anonymous/private (in terms of a F2F, Darknet or even a similar concept which is still being researched)

How can this be achieved? One idea is to use a DHT. The clients can locate other servers on their own without the need of a proxy. I don’t know how feasible it is but someone cleverer than me can probably give more insight into it.

Alternatively, the proxy running on operaunite.com can be an optional download available for users to run as a part of a bigger network of proxies (something like say Tor) to allow similar levels of anonymity. But I cannot say how amenable Opera would be to this.

In any case, I think Opera Unite is a great application and a very good step forward for new forms of communication and data sharing on the Internet.

Update: As mentioned by commentator Marky and this Reddit thread Opera already has the means to do what I proposed above. So this is even better than I figured :) Yay to Opera

2 Comments

  1. marky (1 comments) June 23, 2009

    If u read up some more on OU, like the FAQ, u’ll learn that the proxy is a last-resort option to enable connectivity, and that u can use your own domain name if u want. OU can even be used in ad-hoc networks without any internet connection at all.

  2. AJ (258 comments) June 23, 2009

    Marky, you’re right. I missed that. However it is not very clear in the FAQ. However Reddit came to the rescue. I’ll be updating the post.

    Thanks for the heads up :)

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