release of version 10 of its desktop browser, Opera has already released a new
beta alpha version of the next iteration of its flagship product. This version includes a few bug fixes, but most importantly, it also enables Opera Unite, the hyped and then quickly forgotten browser-based web server that Opera announced in June. Given that Unite will soon be part of the default install of Opera, we thought that now would be a good time to have another look at Unite and see if it lives up to its promise to "reinvent the web."
A Web Server on Your Desktop
When Opera announced Unite, the company's PR material said that it would "reinvent the web." This is where Opera's PR went wrong and may be the main reason why people quickly lost interest in Unite. Here is what Unite really does: it allows you to easily turn your desktop into a web server and run a number of web services like photo-sharing, file-sharing, messaging, forum, web server, and online media player right from your machine and access all of these services from anywhere. If you are currently using Simplify Media or a similar service, you are already familiar with the basic idea of how Unite works. Just like with Simplify Media, you can access these services only when the program is actually running on your computer, so it's not a replacement for a hardware device like the Pologplug.
In our tests, Unite worked just as advertised. We were able to stream our music, access our photos, and serve up a simple website. We didn't test all of the available services, but there is also a file uploader that allows you to quickly upload a file to your machine at home, as well as a file-sharing service that allows users to host their own files. Another neat app is the "Fridge," where you can post sticky notes for other users to see.
You can make your services publicly available for everybody on the Internet, password protect them, or make them available only to you when you are logged in with your Opera credentials. There are obviously some security concerns to be considered when you run a service like this on your Windows, Mac, or Linux machine, though Opera obviously argues that Unite is secure.
If you want to give it a try, you can download the latest beta of Opera 10.10. Just remember that this is beta software, and things will inevitably break.