The number of Internet users has been growing steadily, and now stands at nearly 3.5 billion. And despite the growing popularity of mobile devices and specialized apps, the Internet browser is still the most popular medium for interacting with the World Wide Web for the great majority of users.
Jón S. von Tetzchner
A long time has passed since the IT industry was abuzz with browser wars, and when Jón S. von Tetzchner, co-founder and former CEO of Opera Software, announced he’s building a new browser, many were skeptical whether he can start one again. Because – let’s be realistic – making a dent in the browser market is exceedingly hard. Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari and IE have plenty of users and features.
Undeterred by the skepticism, the Vivaldi team worked hard, and after more than a year of public development, Vivaldi 1.0 was released in April 2016.
“There are really only a handful of major browsers available in the market and all tend to focus on the same user group. The assumption is that everyone has the same basic requirements and all additional functionality is removed,” says von Tetzchner, now CEO of Vivaldi.
“Vivaldi is different. We know that people have different requirements and wants, so we built a flexible browser that can adapt to the user with a wealth of functionality and options,” he adds.
What makes Vivaldi unique
You’re probably reading this article using one of the browsers mentioned above, and you’re wondering what makes Vivaldi a better choice. The Vivaldi CEO puts it simply: “Our approach is to adapt to our users. If they request a feature or an option, we implement it. Every user matters.”
Here are some examples of interesting features:
1. Tab handling, including placement of tabs (left, right, top, bottom, hidden), tab undelete, tab stacking (to clean up the tab bar) and tab stack tiling, which gives you multiple desktops inside the browser. This is restored on the next restart.
2. Bookmarks implementation, which includes speed dials, speed dial groups, speed dial folders, bookmarks manager, bookmarks panel, and a bookmarks bar. You decide which of these you want to use, or all of them.
3. Keyboard shortcuts. Single key keyboard shortcuts are included. Most functions can be executed from the keyboard. You can change the keyboard shortcuts to fit your need.
4. Mouse gestures. You can perform a lot of functions through mouse gestures and you can make your own.
5. Notes are a great way to store information from the web. You can even take a screenshot.
6. Web panels. Vivaldi includes a few standard panels but you can also add your own. This is ideal for services you want to have available at all times, such as news feeds, chat services or any documents you use frequently.
7. Fast forward and rewind make it easier to move faster through the web. Fast forward suggests the natural next page, such as the next search page, and rewind takes you back to the first page on a server and back from there.
Privacy and security
Since Vivaldi is based on Chromium, it gets all security updates made to Chromium, and most security issues are related to that code. I’m assured that issues reported in the Vivaldi code are dealt with swiftly.
“We have a great relationship with the developer community. We are making a browser for them as well, and they return the favor by reporting bugs, including security issues. We recognize their efforts in build announcements,” says von Tetzchner.
Privacy and security issues have entered the mainstream. Users are increasingly interested in making their Internet experience safer.
“The first step is really about us not tracking our users. We have no need to do that, and we do not want to do that,” he says. What Vivaldi does want to provide users with is user control over cookies, which is something they plant to expand on in later versions.
WebRTC allows for easier implementation of voice, video chat and file sharing applications in the web browser, using HTML technologies. While this is great, it can also be abused by websites to track you more easily. Vivaldi 1.3.534.3 released yesterday includes a new privacy option for WebRTC, enabling users to leave less fingerprints when browsing the web.
Privacy > WebRTC
Add-ons have proven to be an effective way of extending a browser’s features list, as well as of building specialized tools for niche audiences working in a variety of fields. On the other hand, extensions can slow down the browser, so Vivaldi developers prefer to include most functionalities by default.
“We also support most Chrome extensions and we will provide a lot of ways to customize the browser over time. People are already making use of the fact that Vivaldi is built using web standards and are changing the browser directly, but we will provide cleaner ways to do this in the future,” explains von Tetzchner.
So, how does Vivaldi compare to other browsers? I suggest you take it for a spin and decide for yourselves.