One of the most notable features in the new Opera 9.5 Alpha is synchronization with your free My Opera account. All of your bookmarks, Speed Dial entries, Personal Bar items, and panels are sent to a remote server in Oslo, Norway. You can then access them from any number of computers that you have Opera 9.5 installed on.
When Opera 9.5 Alpha was opened to the public there were very few details revealed about how the synchronization process actually worked. The Opera Desktop Team made a post today to ease the mind of many by explaining how the process works, and how bookmarks identify themselves.
–How it Works–
Here’s how Opera ensures that every installation using your login has up-to-date bookmarks:
- Opera prepares the information it needs to sync by placing it in a custom XML format.
- After compilation is complete the data is sent to a server via a secure HTTPS connection in Oslo, where it is then stored in a database.
- When another Opera with your login name comes by the server will look through what it already has to see whether something is different between the database and the new data.
- If there is something on the server which was not in the data Opera sent, it will return these items to Opera.
- Opera will then merge this with its own bookmarks.
But this doesn’t happen every time that you change something in your bookmarks. If you add, modify, or delete a bookmark Opera will store that information for later. Then when it connects to the My Opera server it will send only the changes that had been made, and in return the server will let Opera know if anything has changed since the last synchronization. By synchronizing only the changes to the bookmarks a lot of the overhead is being reduced, and is thereby very efficient.
Every bookmark is assigned a Universally Unique Identifier (UUID) that serves as the primary identification mechanism. Two bookmarks, whether or not they have the same name/address, will never result in the same UUID. For that reason it’s possible for you to have multiple bookmarks for the same site, and they will all be synchronized. This may or may not be the way some users want their bookmarks synchronized, but the team said that they are contemplating a feature to detect duplicate bookmarks in the browser.
–Opera 9.5’s Future–
Despite the awesomeness of this built-in feature there are still some things that I would like to see it synchronize:
- Passwords – I’ve always been a little skeptical about storing passwords online, but I know that if Opera did it they would make sure my data is completely protected.
- All Toolbars & Buttons – Currently the Personal bar is synchronized with My Opera, but a majority of my customizations lie within other toolbars.
- Notes – Opera’s note taking system consists of purely text (no images or graphics allowed) so I can’t imagine it would be that hard to synchronize these as well.
- Search Engines – I have a bunch of custom search engines and keywords setup, and having these propagate to all of my Opera installations would be really nice.
- Settings/Opera:Config – Lastly, and probably one of the most important, is settings! It can take awhile to setup a browser just the way you like it, and by storing the settings in a remote location I’ll have the piece of mind knowing that I won’t have to spend hours customizing every inch of my browser again in the event something happened to my installation.
There is also an option "hidden" in the opera:config that hints at a complete synchronization feature. No one is quite sure what that is used for, but speculation is that Opera may allow users to synchronize there entire profile. I have a feeling that doing so could really bog down the browser while it compiles all of the data though.
Note: I’ve also read that a web-based version of the bookmarks should be coming.