Unite behind Opera? Read the fine print

NPR reports on Opera Unite, the latest attempt by the alternative Web browser maker to implement what at first is touted as a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, primarily among users of its browser. What Unite actually is, however, is a centralized network run by Opera where all user content must go through Opera’s proxy servers, and users are subject to an odious terms of service agreement (TOS). A portion of the TOS agreement reads as follows:

By using the Services, you warrant that you will not upload, transfer or otherwise make available files, images, code, materials, or other information or content (“Content”) that is obscene, vulgar, sexually-oriented, hateful, threatening, or that violates any laws or third-party rights, hereunder, but not limited to, third-party intellectual property rights.

And further down, the rather ominous but predictable:

Opera has the right, in its sole discretion, to remove any content or prevent access to and/or use of any or all of the services, for any reason, including as a result of your violation, or alleged violation, of these Terms of service.

I think Opera really misses the entire idea of a P2P service here. The whole advantages of P2P are not having to depend on a centralized server and not having to deal with yet another set of restrictions on top of any imposed by one’s ISP.

This whole clause of the TOS smacks of censorship. Whose judgment applies to what is considered “obscene” or “vulgar” anyway? Where does Opera get off telling users what they can and can’t share?

Even Flickr lets you share such content willingly as long as you label it appropriately. Of course, there are some things that even Flickr will not allow at all; that’s where Freenet and hidden services such as Tor come into play.

If Opera had just said “Why trust Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube when you can just trust us instead?” it would at least be transparent what their service is about.