Strategies for Successful Development

Process and technology for small teams building real software

re: Opera Will Reinvent The Internet On June 16

Posted by S4SD (Seth Morris) on 2009/06/13

I saw this via @da_lind, somehow: Opera has a teaser campaign for some new product releasing on June 16th (at 9:01 AM, no less). predicts it will be a "browser in the cloud," based on the image they’re using as a logo:

Seems reasonable. The buzzword traffic alone should generate loads of subscriptions. (Opera is a pay-to-play web browser1.)

I commented on the ghacks story:

Great. More important software with personal information moving to remote servers I can’t control at home and my IT department can’t manage. I can’t imagine what my end-user benefit might be, but at least Opera doesn’t have to worry about handling addons or extensions, since it’s still purely a networking/HTTP-and-rendering/javascript tool instead of a productivity platform.

At least I’ll get to pay for the privilege of letting them control my updates and mine my personal and corporate click-trails, usage habits, and bookmark data, which sounds great.

And some people think Alexa, an opt-in service with a no charges, a privacy mode, clear pro-privacy policies, is evil! But Opera is the browser we geeks love to extol–as long as we don’t have to use it!

(Posted from Opera Mobile; yes, I *do* like the browser, even if I hate the hypothetical cloud-browser
idea and I don’t think Opera is quite worth what they charge.)

(Disclosure: I used to work for Alexa, I trust the policies I have seen there, I still have friends there, and I am slightly bitter at having to tell every major anti-malware product not to remove the opt-in service–with code *I* wrote–shouldn’t be removed just to artificially up their statistics.)

[Note: I cleaned up typos and inserted hyperlinks. My editing on my phone isn’t always the best.]

My quick takes:

  • "Cloud Computing" means distributing data and processing across fungible, remote, and anonymous computers
  • "The Cloud" means doing this over the internet via some corporation’s computers
  • A browser is a piece of code that
    1. Downloads data from a remote server
    2. Renders it appropriately for your client computer (screen resolution, bit depth, window size, input method, accessibility tools)
    3. Renders some extensions such as Flash, music, and video players what both assume they are running locally and wouldn’t be reliably useable if run remotely (they’d have to push down screen-scrapes at a furious and consistent rate)
  • By their nature, browsers know—and often remember—everything you browse:
    • This user made POST requests to the purchase page of these 3 gardening sites this month, but did not make POST requests to this other
    • After visiting LocalBookstore’s web site, this user went to and did not return to LocalBookstore
    • This user just started visiting job sites
    • Between 9 and 5 local time, this user visited 20 shopping sites, 15 comedy sites, and 3 public utilities

          Of course, your ISP and IT department already have this browsing information, even if you haven’t set a proxy server. You don’t think all that traffic on port 80 is secret, do you?

  • Anonymized and in aggregated, this is extremely valuable:
    • These 3 gardening sites are the most popular in terms of purchase-visits. Would YourGardeningSite like to know this? Do you have cash and a service contract2?
    • LocalBookstore gets hits, but users head to to purchase (would LocalBookstore like to know what pages they left the site on? Does LocalBookstore have cash and a service contract?
    • Would JobAnalysisGroup like to buy a monthly report of aggregate job site visits across multiple sites? Would they also like to know how many users just started visiting job sites? How many stopped? Does JobAnalysisGroup have cash, a service contract, and a promise to report the data as "supplied by"?
    • Would JournalistPerson like to report on business-hour site usage? Would JournalismUser like the source broken down by home DSL/cable (telecommuting) versus corporate networks (reverse telecommuting)? Will JournalistPerson use our name prominently in the article, the statistics graphic, and any search tags?
  • Web browsers also need to record bookmarks, which is more potentially minable data
  • Many web browsers offer to store account and password information for users, often including corporate accounts for users at work

I’m not seeing what a "cloud browser" would add for the user, but I do see what it could do for Opera. There are some plusses and minuses that do look interesting, though:

  • Cloud applications are upgraded and maintained by the service company, which relieves end users of the patch/update burden but also removes IT department control of upgrades, preventing them from vetting updates and managing security configuration
  • Cloud applications carry your preferences to wherever you logon. Whether you want the same bookmarks, cookies, and security settings at work and home is an interesting question. If you do, Opera’s hypothetical "Cloud Browser" would compete with many services that already move some of your data (I like IE7Pro, personally).

Of course, a "cloud browser" is speculation at this point, but even if Opera doesn’t do it it does seem like a reasonable direction for Yahoo! or Google to go.

We’ll know on Tuesday.

1) Well, Opera has always been a pay product in my experience, and I know the mobile version is (I’m still evaluating if I want to pay $24 for a web browser on my phone). I can’t find a link for the price of the desktop version (although they do tout that their beta version is free, which is usually a sign that the stable version isn’t); of course, many products online try to hide their costs until after you have them installed.

2) Of course, we don’t want Our Cloud Browser to look like an evil data miner. I don’t know why so many net pundits like to say that anonymous data mining is evil, even as they quote it, and I love how so many claim the supposed openness of the web means it can adapt to user needs, without mentioning that you can’t adapt to information unless you collect the data. So some other company, owned by Our Cloud Browser or its parent company, gets to sell the data. It buys the usage trails from Our Cloud Browser as a way to launder the money.

Listening to: Donald Fagen – The Nightfly – New Frontier



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