Thursday, July 9, 2009

'Opera Unite' released for Android, Win Mobile, Nokia S60 and Brew!

A few weeks ago Opera announced its latest innovation: Opera Unite, a small web server sitting in the browser enabling true peer-to-peer transfer of content and social networking. A preview version of an Opera desktop browser is available for download, a mobile version is said to be in the works (at Opera).

What most people may not know: The feature that Opera Unite delivers is available on mobile handsets already, namely on Android (here it rather works with Webkit), Win Mobile, Nokia S60 (Webkit again) and a Brew based handset. In fact, it was already demonstrated on JavaOne four weeks ago. How come?

What Opera calls Unite and intends to port to mobile tomorrow is functionally contained in what Sprint (wireless carrier in the US) calls Titan (which essentially is Mobile OSGi plus web browser integration), shipping with a number of handsets this year. What each respective technology does:
  • it turns your device into a full web server (we call it the The Server in your Pocket)
  • it lets you share your content peer-to-peer with your friends
  • the local user interface runs in the browser
  • new services & capabilities can be injected (taking effect on both the server and the browser based UI)
  • on broadband networks it discovers peers via some internet lookup service (for instance, the demo on JavaOne used Twitter for that purpose). Certainly, Opera is ahead of the game in this regard as they provide an operational central DNS service operational
  • on local networks it can discover peers through UPnP

Despite these similarities, OSGi takes the concept one step further and offers additional capabilities:
  • it is browser agnostic. In fact, on Android and S60 the Webkit browser is used, whereas on WinMobile and a Brew based handset we use Opera Mobile (without Unite support)
  • the server feature runs in the background and is available even when the browser is down
  • new services (i.e. a new p2p messaging service) are written in Java and are deployable (push or pull) at any time (even once the device is already shipped). This opens the door to leveraging an incredible amount of existing code, knowhow and developer resources. Moreover, pure Opera Unite services run in the browser sandbox and cannot leverage platform capabilities that Opera does not provide JavaScript APIs for. In mobile this is crucial as file access (essentially the only platform access API currently available in Unite) isn’t all you want to use. There is location, messaging, PIM, etc. … In OSGi, you’re not bound to the APIs of your sandbox, you can bring you own APIs! Not to speak of the many APIs you get out of the box
  • OSGi is a recognized industry standard, it is not a proprietary technology. It has an open governance model, a reliable spec and a huge developer community behind it

Anyway, despite these differences I am extremely excited about Opera Unite. Alike Sprint and OSGi, Opera has stood up for a new approach of architecting the internet: Turning dump clients into intelligent servers. It is not about yet another social networking platform, it is about expanding the very core fabric of the web and the way social communication works today. It took a popular brand like Opera to finally get a public conversation going about this new architecture. I sincerely thank Opera for having created this level of awareness in public. Sprint & Co. haven’t managed to create even just a fraction of the buzz we have seen in the last few weeks, initiated by Opera's announcement.

Lawrence Eng from Opera says in his blog "I hope you’ll join me in imagining a more personal and social computing experience that actually begins to deliver on the old (but not forgotten) promise of the Internet bringing people together in meaningful ways." I certainly will! Will you?

Opera, why don’t we team up and explore what comes out if we combined Unite and Mobile OSGi?

- Jo