I've seen the future and its name is Opera Unite

Opera has released Opera Unite, an extension to the Opera web browser that allows every computer running it to act as a web server.

On paper the idea of running your own web server may not sound all that exciting, and I'll admit that was my first reaction as well. But that was before I actually played with it. Opera Unite isn't just some service you can host a website on, it's far, far more, and the ramifications could fundamentally shift how we use the web.

Opera Unite acts as a platform for sharing and collaboration served locally. For example, using Unite you can share you photos or music with friends directly from your computer over the web, without the need to upload it to another server first. The initial range of options is limited, on top of photos and music, there's a chat room, message board, file sharing and web server options, however the platform is open and allows for others to develop for it. In theory, you could end up with the ability to run your own web conference, video sharing site, or pretty much anything a developer can dream of, all from the comfort of your own computer.

While sharing photos may not sound very exciting, serving them from your computer on demand easily from your browser most definitely is. Opera Unite cuts out the middleman, so the next time you want to share some music with a friend, or some files, you can easily do so directly. No more need to buy premium accounts, or wait for uploads, instead you connect directly to others.

To use Unite, you are required to sign up for an Opera account which is free. Setup is a breeze and quick, and your are allocated a URL for your computer than can be accessed by others, such as computer.yourname.operaunite.com. Users have a range of options for sharing, including public access, limited access, or user access only.

I'm surprised I'm finding myself saying this, and it's not something I'd say often, but I've seen the future, and it's name is Opera Unite.

You can download Opera Unite here. I should also note, the current version of Opera (Opera 10) is a very smart browser on its own, and probably worth a serious look.