Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The tenor of conversation

So all the underwhelming new features in Opera 10 — Turbo, visual tabs, new skin — have been a cover for the big show -- Opera Unite, their “reinvention” of the web that turns the browser into a no hassle web server to share pictures, music, chat, anything.  Setting security concerns aside, it makes sense.  If we've got near server-class hardware on the desktop, and server-caliber net access, why not bypass the middleman (or person, or computer) and act as our own servers?  (N.B. Like Turbo and Opera Link, all roads lead to an opera.com account.)  Opera is framing it as using our existing computer resources to add to the robustness of the web.  

It's interesting to me that this is happening just as Google is introducing Wave, which in a very real way reinvents email using everything we've learned in the past 40 years or so (yes, email is that old) about communication online.  Instead of using mail servers to just shuffle messages around between computers, Wave turns each message into a sort of hub for all manner of communication and collaboration, like live chat, annotation, media sharing, etc.  The message, and all the rest of the associated content, seems to exist on a server somewhere, accessible webmail- or Google-apps style, although a desktop Wave client wouldn't be unimaginable.  Google's planning on making it an open protocol, which should ease adoption.  (If Opera's hunch is correct, maybe we'll all be our own Wave servers sooner or later.  In which case, IPv6 better hurry up.)

While Opera, on the other hand, has driven browser innovation in the past, that's usually been as a function of new features, not a whole new web paradigm.  If their widget library in comparison to Firefox's plugin community is any indication, I'm not certain they actually have the juice to make this happen.

I do not regret not calling this post “Something to sing about”

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