Have you ever desperately looked for a Web site you found earlier, but couldn't find it again because of its long URL, or the search terms you used?
Well, with Opera Link you never again have to remember the URL to a site, or its weird search terms. Opera Link makes your bookmarks available wherever you go: at work, at home, on your phone, or even on the road. It synchronizes your bookmarks from your Mac or PC, from Mini on your phone, so once your stuff has been synched — access it anywhere from the interface powered by My Opera.
To provide this service there has been one developer in particular who has lived and breathed Opera Link for the past year. His name is Anton, goes by the nick "Atilla", and works in the Information Systems department here at Opera. He is a versatile developer, writing a lot of cool stuff, but his main focus has (and will most likely be) the Opera Link project. Besides developing, he writes about good stuff in his blog. We've had a chat with Anton why he feels it's such an important service to provide and what he feels are the advantages.
So, who are you, and what do you do at Opera?
My name is Anton, I've gone by the nick Atilla for ages and I'm working in Information Systems. We develop many different services, but my main focus is on the Opera Link project. I also sometimes roam the forums, looking for users to annoy.
Could you please explain (without the PR—stuff) what Opera Link is and why it is an important service?
Opera Link is a vision that is just beginning to take shape. A vision of the unified experience that anyone should be providing on the web - something that Opera has always been about. What I'd like to see accomplished is a lot more natural, unrestricted usage of the web. Opera Link is going to be a part of that - by providing you your own familiar environment. You should have access to everything you like and you're used to, without regard to what device you're using or where in the world you are.
I am not a turtle - I don't carry my home on my back anywhere I go. In the same way I don't want to have to bother about taking what's important for me to use the Internet the way I like it - I just want it to be there. Fully accessible whenever I need it.
What has been the biggest challenge with developing Opera Link?
I'd say the trickiest parts have always been deciding what exactly we want to accomplish. How to make the whole process as seamless as possible, while it'd still satisfy the requirements of hundreds of thousands of people, and eventually millions. Which brings us to the second problem, which is the major task for us - the server monkeys. Making everything reliably and consistently working for swarms of users, with no downtime or performance issues. Although that's a pretty well-covered ground, in reality there's just so very few web services that manage to pull that off. We should be at least as good as them.
Can you explain a bit how the technology works (for the techy savvy peeps out there)?
We've commented on that before, in blogs, forums and release announcements. You could look at Opera Link as a fairly large distributed system, that tries to keep the state of every node consistent. It does use a centralized server, that is both the primary communication hub and online storage. Why we chose that architecture has many reasons - we provide online access to the service, we require no setup time barring activating your account, we try to accomplish as high consistent uptime as possible. Every part of this service has been designed with high-reliability in mind. Truth to be told, we've deliberately tried to batter down the system, doing things that are a big no-no on anyone's book and so far we've had very little success in taking it down. There's a lot that runs on the Opera Link servers that many people don't think about. But that's the point - we don't want anyone to have to worry about such things.
Opera Link doesn't pass files around or anything like that. It sends only what it needs to send, as soon as it happens. If you leave your systems logged on, anything you do in one place happens on every connected device, without you having to worry about it.
Why should people use Opera Link?
Because they can. No - really, I think it is harder to find reasons not to use it. Everyone has their different, personal ways of using the web - their interests, preferences and habits. For other applications those some times matter very much - why shouldn't they matter for the web? It is convenience and comfort we want to provide - for you, for us, no matter where you need access to the web. Why leave your way of doing things when you go out?
Who should use Opera Link?
Anyone that wants ease of use and comfort for his browsing experience. No matter where and how you browse the web. And the more active you are - the better the experience gets.
How do I use it?
We're trying to make it as simple to use as possible. If you're just starting, you'll have to spend a small amount of time to set up an account for yourself, but that process is integrated in the browser. You'll get a choice about the items you want to synchronize or not as well. At that point you simply click "Enable" and that's about it. The data will be sent to the server and from then on - to any device you use with Opera Link. Ideally that's all you'll ever have to do.
At that point you're getting the ability to see and manipulate your data online. For that purpose there's an interface on our community website - my.opera. That way you're not limited in your choice of device, if it isn't Opera Link-enabled yet.
The other really interesting thing you can do is to use Opera Link with Opera Mini, which is where things get really comfortable. You get the ability to manipulate your personal data from a lot richer interface, on a more powerful device and have it available on your mobile phone instantaneously. Changes made on the Desktop or the online interface literally appear in front of your eyes on Mini. The first time you use Opera Link on Opera Mini, a special folder will pop-up in your bookmark list, labelled "Opera Mini". Everything you put in there is what your Opera Mini bookmark list will contain. But you still have access to every item on your bookmark list, no matter how big it is, trough "More Bookmarks" on your Opera Mini. That way we keep happy both the users with limited phones and the bookmark-hungry power users.
What do you think will happen with Opera Link in the future?
I certainly hope it'll build up to shape the vision I'm talking about. There's so much we can do with it and I'm sure it'll grow up to become one of the coolest features we've developed. We're already working on quite nice and useful new parts - we're still in beta after all. But if we can get 100k users in a testing phase, I can only imagine what will happen when we provide all that we have planned. Good days are to come, I'm sure.
What's on your speed-dial?
Right now, google, my.opera and a set of ever-changing websites. Honestly speaking, I haven't had the ability to pick 9 consistent things to put there and keep for a while. Yet. I've very active and erratic browsing habits.
They used to be to the forum of The High Guard - my WoW raiding community and all kind of related websites, hehe. Right now they've shifted a bit to a few webcomics - Ctrl-Alt-Del, The Order of The Stick, Least I Could Do - stuff like that.
Oh man, they're so many. I've seen tons and tons of movies. If I was under gunpoint and pressed to really chose I'd go for "Snatch" probably. One of the most truly genuine and hilarious things I've seen.
So, cheers to everyone that tried out the alphas, the betas, the weekly builds and official releases. To everyone that gave their ideas (oh, worry not they're not wasted or forgotten), to everyone that complained, everyone that posted a bug report, everyone that trusted me a bookmarks file for debugging purposes, and everyone that signed up to give it a shot at least once. That's all of us - the 105,000 users right now.
Kudos to Oleg Melnychuk for illustrations!