Saturday, June 13, 2009

Here's what Opera is about to unveil

I love a good mystery as much as the next guy, but many people (myself included) are finding Opera's latest mysterious claim a bit over-the-top. In case you haven't been following this story, the Opera folks are saying that on June 16 they will unveil something that will "reinvent the Web."

Many people have speculated as to what it could be (I will tell you what I think it is in a moment). Some have said, based on a tantalizing tweet by Hicksdesign, that Opera has found a way to put the Internet on a USB stick. However, that's (yawn) been done.

Others have suggested that the new Opera will offer a seamless (don't you hate that word now?) way to sync everything to everything, so that all your contact info, e-mail archives, cached web pages, notes-to-self, car keys, and loose pocket change are synchronized across all your devices, including your refrigerators, all the time.

That's been done too. More or less.

Folks, let me tell you what's going to happen. I have a pretty strong hunch (but no inside info, I assure you) on this one. This is something I've thought about for years -- it has needed to happen for years -- and I'll be thrilled if Opera pulls it off, although whether people will flock to adopt it is another question.

The answer is that Opera is going to embed a web server in itself.

When you fire up Opera, you'll be operating a secure server and you will be able to serve all kinds of content (whatever you want, basically: bookmarks, contacts, cached content, arbitrary files from a roped-off area of your local storage, web pages of your own) to other Opera users, at the very least, and maybe all browser users, at the very most. The security aspects will be interesting, but presumably they've got a solution there, too.

Such a trick would solve the sync-anything problem trivially, as a side benefit. The more interesting question is what kind of two-way AJAX apps and mashups people will be able to write when they can use each other's browser as a web server. The Web goes from being a bunch of big public servers plugged into a common backbone, to a confederation of micro-servers distributed across individual devices running Opera -- a Web within a Web, the peer-to-peer Web. Except instead of running a P2P protocol, you'll be running good old HTTP.

The embedded-server browser (possibly with embedded Derby or other database) is what I see coming on the 16th. Or something like it.

Anyone got a better guess?

26 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:46 AM

    Considering that most ISP's block outbound http (or at least, port 80), I'm curious as to how they (or you) would expect this to work very well.

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  2. Anonymous9:46 AM

    Sounds somewhat similar to Weave on firefox (https://labs.mozilla.com/projects/weave/)

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  3. I think you're right, check the source code for /freedom:

    > We start our little story with the invention of the modern day computer.
    > Over the years, the computers grew in numbers, and the next natural step in the evolution was to connect them together. To share things.
    > But as these little networks grew, some computers gained more power than the rest and called themselves servers ...

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  4. I've had my share of shit ISP's and I've always had port 80...

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  5. Anonymous10:05 AM

    Every copy of Opera will come with a free pony.

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  6. This sounds like a horrible idea. I really don't want to think about people accidentally share stuff to every opera or internet user.

    But good entry for a satiric blog post. :-)

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  7. yah - but then you have to run Opera.

    We need a micro-server as a WIDGET so we can embed it into our pages and let any browser serve it up!

    We can't require our users to use specific browsers!

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  8. Sounds like a sort of web-based tor protocol? Tor is the distributed form of ftp. This would be a distributed form of http.

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  9. Anonymous12:43 PM

    or maybe they'll just release a new version of Opera Desktp/Mini or Mobile

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  10. I have high hopes for what Opera is releasing. Yes, a browser-embedded web server would be great. BUT...

    Wouldn't a built-in XMPP client be more amazing and useful to developers? Consider how well it scales and would provide a killer alternative to AJAX techniques. (Remember that XMPP isn't just for instant messaging!) It could be the beginning of the end for XMLHttpRequest and its associated long-polling tricks.

    Next one should consider that XMPP capabilities would be cool, but having HTML5 WebSockets (or any means of using JavaScript to initiate TCP connections) would be powerful as well.

    Those of us following Google Wave (wave.google.com) would be totally psyched about native browser support for XMPP connections, though.

    @marc_canter: In-browser XMPP support could enable the kind of widgets you suggest.

    @carstenringe, @Kas: Although it would be an innovative move, I hope that Opera doesn't embed a web server. It opens a big can of interworms, varying from port 80 issues to major security problems that web users aren't prepared to manage on their own.

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  11. Good call, sounds on target, particularly given the comments in the /freedom source.

    There's some precdent in rHTTP, used by Linden Labs to allow a HTTP client to serve content.

    Assuming its true, I'll be interested to see whether P2P connections are possible, or whether its just a reverse link ala rHTTP.

    As for the naysayers saying its a security issue, that seems ridiculous: the browser wouldnt be serving files, it would be giving a sandboxed web application an API to serve content with. And it probably wouldnt be happening on port 80.

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  12. Anonymous2:40 PM

    But that has been done already too, hasn't it? I seem to recall Oracle had a personal webserver/browser way back - and there were others

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  13. I love the idea but it has been done before and has not caught on. You can get Firefox extensions that embedd a webserver in your browser and of course Windows and Mac OS X come with web-servers.

    If this is what Opera is doing then they need to solve the "why do I need this" and the "tell my friends" problems.

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  14. I think SETI were doing Super-Computing with public nodes back in the day using ScreenSavers to download, process and return calculations in the hunt for ETs.

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  15. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Sounds great. A service like that could in the long term kill Google.

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  16. Anonymous4:54 PM

    of course, unless you are behind a NAT. Then you´ll just end up serving cookies to your intranet buddies

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  17. Very interesting idea - I don't think this is what Opera is going to reveal, my take on your idea: http://alicious.com/2009/opera-about-to-change-the-world/

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  18. Anonymous7:05 PM

    "Sounds somewhat similar to Weave on firefox (https://labs.mozilla.com/projects/weave/)"

    Actually, Opera Link is the equivalent of Mozilla Weave.

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  19. This has already been done in the Firefox extension Plain Old Webserver, and it hasn't exactly reinvented the internet or even taken it by storm:

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3002

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  20. How about this:

    Opera already compresses and serves Web pages through its Opera Mini and Opera Turbo products. Now, what if it added all Opera users into that equation, making them basically a huge server farm? Any webpage an Opera user visited would be cached and served to other Opera users requesting that page. There would be lots of redundancy and you would be served by the nearest/fastest servers. It could be a swarming technology, with chunks coming from multiple servers simultaneously. This could potentially speed up the internet for Opera users, and the redundancy would mean the content could be served even if the original source for the content went offline temporarily.

    Seems pretty cool and plausible to me.

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  21. Here's a very plausible variation of your theory - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=656838

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  22. Anonymous3:37 AM

    Well guessed: http://unite.opera.com/

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  23. Yup, you were right. I guess if Mozilla wants to compete, they already have POW (mentioned above) to start with.

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  24. So you were right in the end :)

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  25. Anonymous7:38 AM

    very well guessed!!!

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  26. Wow! Kudoes to you for guessing it correctly.

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