Opera Software today announced the launch of an addon to their Opera web browser that they promise will 'reinvent' the Internet. This new technology makes your computer act as both a client and a server, so that it can connect directly to other computers without third-party servers. Opera promises that this will give users greater control of private data, as well as make it easier to share.
The Opera Unite features run in the Opera 10 browser itself. All you need to do to get it is download the build from here and log in with your current Opera ID (or register one). From the Opera Unite panel you'll be able to choose to run services. If you want to share your photo's on the web, you just click the photo folder you want to share and Opera Unite creates a URL for that folder. You can access it that way, as can anyone you choose to give the link to.
Unite isn't just for photo sharing. Any files, including MP3 playlists, can be hosted in exactly the same way. If you want to share some music between, say, your desktop and your netbook, you just create a folder with a playlist in it and use Opera Unite to host it. You can now access those tracks in any "modern" web browser. Opera also offers a couple of other features with Unite, including a chat lounge that runs on your computer and a virtual 'fridge' that your friends can post notes on.
'Reinventing the Web' is a bit of a lofty claim for Opera to make, but I don't deny that Unite sounds extremely useful. The ability to skip third-party hosting will be enormously convenient for anyone who doesn't have plans to share their photos or files across the wider Internet. If you intend to show an image off to a lot of people, you're still going to want to use PhotoBucket or some other online hosting service. Unite is meant for person-to-person sharing and connecting, not widespread media distribution.
Still, while it might not shift any major paradigms Opera Unite looks like a very good way to keep in touch with your friends and family. Sharing things on a personal scale will be much easier now, as will accessing files from your desktop while away. Opera deserves some kudos for being the first browser to do this. I hope the others aren't far behind.