The Opera browser has three add-on platforms – Extensions, launched last year, Widgets and Unite. Today the company announced that it will retire two of the platforms in the upcoming Opera 12 release. The platforms that got the axe are Unite and Widgets. Also phased out will be speech recognition, text-to-speech and VoiceXML. Starting with Opera 12, Opera Unite and Opera Widgets will be turned off by default for new users. The two Add-on platforms will be completely removed in a later releases before the end of this year.
Over the last six years we have learned a lot from our work on Opera Widgets and Opera Unite, and when we later built the extension platform for Opera 11 we benefited significantly from this experience. Our extension technology has been a great success, with millions of monthly downloads, and so far completely dwarfing the other platforms. Recently, Opera also shipped a labs version with extension support in Opera Mobile, investigating a fully cross-platform extension environment.
Moving forward we want to focus on one high quality Add-on platform across our products, rather than spending resources on maintaining legacy systems. The know how and and technologies from Unite and Widgets are already being reused in other Opera products. An example is the recently announced UPnP support in Opera Dragonfly.
Opera Unite is a framework that allows for several web services to be hosted from the user’s computer, including a web server for hosting a site, file and photo sharing, a chat room, and streaming media and more. An Opera Unite user’s applications run on a domain associated with their My Opera Community account, and are accessible from any web browser. It’s a totally radical product which cannot be replaced by extensions.
Opera Unite has fairly large number of users. For instance, the most popular Unite app Media Player (which allows streaming music from the home computer over the Internet) has 4.8 million total downloads and 3,956 instances running at this very moment. Over 9000 downloads were recorded during the last week. While these numbers may look small compared to total number of Opera installer downloads, it indicates that the Unite platform is well loved and very much active.
Opera Widgets was another good platform that never received attention from Opera developers once it was released. The ability to run these widgets out of the browser was the only noteworthy upgrade to the platform. Most of the widgets in the gallery were falling out of use because the Widget API was becoming incompatible with every update of the browser.
As happens whenever a service/feature is discontinued, the decision wasn’t well received by Opera Unite and Widgets users. The decision might make sense as it will allow developers to focus on only one add-on platform – extensions, but Opera Unite and Widgets will be missed.