Opera has demonstrated Opera Unite today, a service that turns your own PC into a web server, indicating the future of the internet and what the company intriguingly refers to as 'Web 5.0'.
The big idea is to offer internet users the opportunity to avoid having to deal with the "middle men who control the servers of the world" according to Jon von Tetzchner, CEO, Opera.
"We want our computers to be first class citizens on the web… sharing info that doesn't require servers belonging to strangers."
"The web is a personal place," added the Opera CEO, noting that following the hype around Web 2.0, "people have been talking a lot about Web 3.0 and what that would be like."
Von Tetchner tantalisingly adds: "Maybe we are talking about Web 5.0. We tend to be around five years ahead of the curve. The next natural step is that every computer is a place that can share actual content and services."
As an example, the Opera CEO notes that "if you want to share your photos with the rest of the world, you will [currently] put it somewhere in the cloud.
"What we believe is that it is useful to have a choice, so you can choose to have your photos on your home computer and share them with the world.
"Every single computer can be a two-way street on the internet… so you can choose who you want (or don't want) to share your data with."
Web server within a browser
Operas Chief Development Officer, Christen Krogh asks the fundamental (and rhetorical) question: "what is a web browser really, anyway? It basically downloads stuff and shows it to you."
"There is a kind of asymmetry in that set up. Opera Unite incorporates a web server inside the web browser," Krogh explains. "So you can use your web browser to share content or give services to people around the world."
The CDO gave a quick demonstration, in which he shows how you access Opera Unite by setting up a standard style of online account. Then you simply name the device that is running Opera Unite and on the left side of the screen you will see a list of services offered by Opera Unite.
Opera Unite Services
The first service demonstrated is "file sharing" – where a folder on your hard disk is given a URL which you can access from any other device. The files can be set as either open or private, with standard password protection.
Photo sharing is the second service demonstrated. Double click the photo sharing service, choose your photo files on your hard drive and "kaboom" (as he puts it!) all of your pics are instantly uploaded to Opera Unite for sharing with your family and friends.
Thirdly, the CDO demo's a service called 'The Fridge' which is essentially a virtual fridge door which you can drop virtual notes onto "it is kind of like a bulletin board" but just a little cuter!
Stream your MP3s everywhere
Next up, the Opera Unite Media Player is explained, which lets you use your own PC as a server to stream your own MP3s over the net – again, it can be password protected or be used as open/limited access.
"Opera Unite can be used by anybody that is web savvy," notes Opera's CDO, adding that they, "hope and expect that there will be hundreds and hundreds of different types of services that will be offered [in the future]" and that "you will be able to click on and install services much in the same way as you download and use widgets today."
Security and data limitations
There are of course immediately questions about security and file size limitations on Opera Unite. Additionally, what are the opportunities for third party developers to make Opera Unite services?
Just exactly how secure is Opera Unite? "It is sandboxed" says the Opera CDO, plus "you can protect your content with a password"
And as for file-size limits? "There is no limit to the size of files that you can share on Opera Unite."
"All the new services that Opera makes will be made freely available to consumers, although there could be opportunities for third party developers to make money from making their own Opera Unite services," he adds.
Finally, does Opera Unite work with other browsers? "Yes. You can access the services from any modern browsers."
For more on Opera Unite head over to TechRadar's earlier news feature for all the details.