I’ve been on a personal quest to turn as many computers as I can off. I’ve even considered buying a second, low power, computer to avoid having to fire up the monster I’m typing this on. And I’ve moved to using my Atom netbook and phone for things like Twitter and looking up people on IMDB. As a computing enthusiast I’ve been starting to feel ever more guilty about the energy consumption of my favorite toys. So when Opera launched their Unite prototype yesterday I couldn’t help but feel concerned about the environmental side effects of their so-called reinvention of the web.
Unite turns your browser (or rather Opera 10, which actually probably isn’t your browser) into a web server. It lets you share files, host a chat and even serve web pages from your PC. For as long as that PC is on, and Opera is running. And that’s what scares me a little. If this thing were to seriously catch on, a lot of people might be tempted to leave their PC on longer, or even 24/7.
Let’s say you’re sharing the pictures you took on vacation with your family. I usually have hundreds of one megabyte snapshots to show for my trip, and I’d at least invite my brother, parents and in-laws to take a look. Not all of them would do that right away. So I’d have to leave my computer on for a day or so. And my connection’s upload speed would make looking at all the images and downloading their pick a frustratingly lengthy ordeal. So even if I’d set a date and time for my family to see the images, it would probably take them a long time. And during that time both the receiving and the serving PC would need to be on.
I think Opera’s approach is exactly what we don’t need. In a time when everything seems to be moving towards storing your stuff online (‘in the cloud’ if you will), Opera wants to serve them from your own PC. I say if you want to share pictures, put them online. Don’t leave your computer on for days because someone might want to get one of your files. There are better options, most of which let you turn off your PC and save a tree in the process.