Review of Opera Unite: Putting a Web Server In a Browser

Opera Software recently released a Beta version of its new web browser, Opera Unite. The beta version offers some really cool features that are very new to mainstream web browsing. If you are not familiar with the Opera browsers, you may want to give them a look. They have been making a great desktop product since the mid 1990s; Opera is also the most popular HTML browser for your mobile phone.

Like many modern browser, Opera 10 (Unite) offers tabbed browsing, a download manager, add-ons, speed dials (up to 25 favorite sites shown as a thumbnail), bookmarks with tagging; you know all the basics. Of course there are plenty of ways to customize the look, but the layout of the browser window is similar to that of Safari, Firefox and others.

Some of its Great Features

Built-in BitTorrent client

Opera Unite comes with a BitTorrent client that allows searching for and download of torrent files.

bittorrent-dialogue-opera

Cross-platform syncing

Opera Link enables you to sync bookmarks, speed dials, bookmark bar, notes, etc. with other devices including your phone running. As long as device is running a current version of Opera, Opera mini or Opera mobile; your information is right there and ready for you.

link-sync-opera

Customized search

The customizable web searching gets you quick access to Google, eBay, Amazon and more with the search field in the upper right corner. Or, for even quicker searching, search directly in the address bar using built-in and customizable keywords. For example, type “e VW Rabbit” in the address bar to search for “VW Rabbits” on eBay.

VWrabbit-Search-Opera

Web server within browser

The innovative features Unite is bringing to the table are really going to turn some heads. The idea behind the “services” as they are calling them, is to create a web server within the broswer and make each computer accessible from anywhere on the web, allowing you to retrieve information from it just like you would from a website or server. There will be more services to come, but right now here is what Unite comes with.

services-opera

  • Media Player – Access your local music collection from anywhere on the Internet.
  • Web Server – Host a web site from the local computer.
  • Photo Sharing – Share photos directly without uploading to a middleman site like Flickr.
  • File Sharing – Allows sharing files directly between users; no emailing or torrent sites needed.
  • The Lounge – A chat interface hosted on your computer.
  • Fridge – Lets other people can put a virtual sticky note on the your refrigerator door like back in the day.

My Experiences Using the New Features

I do have to admit that these features are a really good idea. I think for people who embrace the new browser, the services could take the place of many third party hosting and application sites for smaller scale usage. However, while playing with the services feature, I did run into a few instances where I needed to reset the sharing part of the browser. There was no specific reason, just an unnamed error. I am sure as it gets closer to the final release it will be a lot more stable.

With the growing number of data enabled mobile devices, having all of your information synced is becoming more important by the day. Both the desktop and mobile versions of Opera are very fast browsers to surf the web. Having the ability to sync my bookmarks (which I imported from Firefox), coupled with being able to surf the mobile web via a HTML browser while I’m out is a really great thing in a pinch.

I don’t see myself making a total transition from Firefox just yet. I am going to keep using it part time and keep an eye on what services they roll out in the coming months. I wouldn’t write off Opera, they have been in the background for a long time making a really reliable browser. In the end, all the bells and whistles can make a browser fancy, but speed, usability and reliability are what matters. (Sorry Internet Explorer) Download Unite here and see what you think.

What are your thoughts on the Opera browsers?