Periodically, new software appears that has the feeling of a game changer. I had this feeling when I first tried Yahoo Pipes (even though the service still remains somewhat obscure) and Wolfram Alpha. Today, I installed Opera Unite and had was left with a sense of “wow, this could change how I interact and share information with others”. Whenever a system is created – school models, corporations, or browsers – ideologies of the age are embedded. As a result, when circumstances change, future generations struggle to overcome this ideological legacy.
Kuhn’s notion of ordinary and extraordinary science partly reflects this struggle, but focuses on mindsets within a discipline rather than the system that is created to perpetuate those mindsets. Occasionally, a glimpse of “something different” emerges. But, if it’s too different from the current model, it likely fades quickly. Most innovation in browsers – including Google Chrome – is tweaking an existing model. The ideological pull of “what a browser is” and “how we interact with each other and with information” places blinders on the innovation process.
Opera Unite is an experiment in rethinking the notion of a browser entirely. Opera Unite is described as “a web server on the web browser”. I’m sure we’ll hear of many technical limitations to the approach (including security concerns). What I’m most interested in, however, is that Opera offers a different way to think about online activities – it calls into question the ideologies embedded in browsers developed decades ago.