With Vivaldi 1.0, Opera's ex-CEO looks to reinvent web browsers


After more than a year in public development, millions of downloads and feedback from early adopters and beta testers, Vivaldi today made its first major release of its desktop browser- Vivaldi 1.0. Founded by Jon von Tetzchner, who had earlier co-founded and led Opera Software, Vivaldi looks to take on the more established players and fight the browser wars.

Story so far

The team

Headquartered in Oslo, Norway, with offices in Reykjavik, Boston and Palo Alto, Jon founded and became CEO of Vivaldi in 2013, after almost 16 years at Opera.

While there were multiple web browsers in the market fighting for mindshare, Jon wasn’t really thinking about developing another web browser initially. He, instead, saw a market opportunity based on consumer needs and wanted to develop a browser that was productive, efficient and fun. With some of their decisions, Jon felt that Opera and other browsers had dropped the ball on their user base. So, along with some other pioneers in the browser industry, he set out on a mission to make browsers more powerful and user-friendly again.

It took the core team about six months to figure out the nitty-gritty, before it finalised a roadmap on how to go about it. Vivaldi launched its first technical preview about a year ago.

Currently consisting of a team of 35 spread across the globe, the company relies on a variety of communication tools like Skype, Slack and email, and regular meetups in USA and Iceland, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Vivaldi considers its web browser to be built for and with the web. The user interface uses React and JavaScript, as well as Node.js. The core of the browser uses Chromium, to ensure that pages render quickly and accurately.

Talking to YourStory over a Skype call, Jon elaborated about Vivaldi’s ethos, features and future plans. On web browsers, he said,

Millions of people have already agreed that they want a better browser, one that puts them in control. Everything we build is in service of the user. We have no investors and their agendas to dictate our progress. There’s no exit strategy and we’re here to stay.

What’s new?

While there are a variety of web browsers in the market like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Opera, Vivaldi aims to stand out by focussing on and adding more personalisation features, to help users increase productivity and efficiency. Vivaldi 1.0 includes familiar industry-standard features like ability to open a predefined set of tabs and customisations, and a bookmark manager. Some of its unique features include-

Tab stacks- Users can better manage tabs by dropping them on top of each other to create a stack. The aim is to reduce clutter and make organisation easier. Users can also ‘tile’ their tab stacks and see multiple pages at the same time. Vivaldi likens this feature to having multiple desktops.

Notes- Meant as a tool for researchers, users can mark quotes and save it as a note. Vivaldi remembers the site the user was browsing and allows him to take screenshots as well.

Quick commands and shortcuts- With this feature users can access open tabs, bookmarks, history, settings through a command interface. To help users boost productivity, Vivaldi 1.0 includes mouse gestures, which turn flicks of the wrist into different actions, and keyboard shortcuts based on simple key combinations.

Speed dial- Users can access sites and bookmarks easily from any blank tab and include groups and folders to add more custom ‘speed dials’.

Web panels- For better multi-tasking, users can view websites in Vivaldi’s sidebar and keep track of secondary responsibilities, while focussing on the main work in the primary browsing window.

Vivaldi also supports Chrome add-ons. Jon said

So Vivaldi 1.0 is both a throwback and a look ahead. It’s a ‘modern classic’ designed to help our users get the most out of all the time they spend with their browser.

The browser wars

It is estimated that over 46 percent of the world’s population - over 3.4 billion people - have access to the Internet. This number is steadily increasing worldwide as more people gain access to it.

Desktop and mobile browsers have long been the sole gateway to the Internet for users. But mobile apps gained popularity in 2008 and have taken away some traction from mobile browsers. However, a recent report states that web browsers are making a strong comeback, courtesy HTML5 and more user-friendly features. Jon agreed to an extent, but added that mobile apps are useful too when it comes to high-frequency use cases. So there is a struggle now between web, mobile browsers and apps.

Future plans

Jon von Tetzchner

Currently bootstrapped, Jon added that Vivaldi is not looking to raise external funding in the near future, but instead aims to focus more on the product and the business. Its revenue model is similar to that of other browsers and it generates revenue through search and affiliate partners.

While the current focus is on ensuring a successful global launch, the team will constantly monitor feedback to incorporate features into future iterations. Jon confirmed that they are already working on adding an email client.

Vivaldi is positioned as a global product and Jon added that they are not focussing on any particular geographies currently. But if they see tremendous traction from one location they will allocate more resources to it.

Vivaldi is also working on a mobile browser version of their product. Jon said,

The core philosophy behind the mobile browser will remain the same as Vivaldi 1.0. But as we use our fingers to interact with smartphones instead of keyboards and mice and other differences as well, we will be exploring it in a different way.

But with larger screens and more powerful hardware, Jon admitted that it is now easier and more important to have a mobile browser than it was a decade ago. His long-term goal would be to build a profitable business with Vivaldi, as he strongly believes that web and mobile browsers are here to stay.

Website- Vivaldi


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