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Opera launches Unite peer-to-peer platform beta

The browser maker has begun public testing of Unite, a browser-based platform that shares personal information
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Opera on Wednesday released the first beta-test version of its Unite browser-based peer-to-peer platform.

The company also said it has begun to address some of the potential security issues raised by Unite, which builds a compact web server into the browser.

With Unite, Opera hopes to encourage users to turn their PC into a server providing access to the user's personal libraries of music and photos, as well as serving personal web pages and other content. This data is made accessible either via a URL provided by Opera or a web address the user creates themselves.

Unite applications are built using standard web development building blocks such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript, meaning that the applications can be accessed by any standard web browser, including those running on mobile devices, Opera said. For example, the Photo Sharing application currently available for Unite makes galleries of photos available directly from the user's PC without a third-party photo-sharing website.

Other applications currently available allow users to host websites, chat, share files and exchange notes with friends. Opera has called on developers to begin contributing applications, and will provide a catalogue of company-reviewed applications on the Unite website.

In a blog post, Opera product analyst Roberto Mateu said the Media Player, Photo Sharing and Messenger applications have received the most development work so far.

Unite is built into the beta-test version of Opera 10.10, and is accessed by a button in the lower-left corner of the browser. The beta runs on platforms including Mac OS X, Windows, Unix and Linux.

Users need an Opera account to begin serving applications. When the user launches an application, Opera creates a URL for it via the company's DNS server, for example http://home.johndoe.operaunite.com/media_player/.

The company has also provided users with instructions for setting up a web address via their own DNS server or for using a static IP address.

Unite's security is currently based on the distribution of passwords, an approach that Canalys analyst Andy Buss has called "an avenue to disaster". Unite does not currently incorporate encryption, Opera said.

"If there is no transport-layer security, it is easy to intercept the information being transported," Buss said in June, at the launch of the Unite alpha. "This will need to be looked at as an option."

With the alpha release, Unite allowed users to embed the password in certain URLs, in order to provide direct access to particular content.

That method of content-sharing is no longer permitted, with users instead required to send the address and password separately, according to Opera.

Opera does not monitor the content shared by users, but said it will block the accounts of those who are found to be sharing copyrighted material.

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