Sing to the Opera: Spiritual son of alternative browser breaks cover


Today saw the arrival of yet another browser on a very crowded scene. Hailed as one for the power users, Vivaldi hit the all-important v1.0 milestone as it tries to position itself as a challenger, the same way Google Chrome did seven years ago.

Techradar Pro interviewed Jon Von Tetzchner, Vivaldi's co-founder and chief executive on the new kid on the block, to ask why it matters, and what his plans are to conquer the browser market.

Techradar Pro: Jon, let's start with the obvious. Do we need yet another browser?

Jon Tetzchner: Most people can name no more than five browsers, if even that. Those browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer/Edge – all have the same focus. They all go for simplicity. We believe there is room for a browser with a different focus. At Vivaldi, we believe users have different requirements and wishes and we aim to satisfy those wishes. Users can choose how the browser looks and how to interact with it.

TRP: Who is backing Vivaldi? How is it financed?

JT: We are funding it ourselves. We have no investors and their agendas to dictate our progress. There's no exit strategy and we're here to stay. All we want to do is give people a browser they're proud to use and that we're proud to call Vivaldi. (As for the funding, Jon is funding it and the employees are owners. They've declined to take investment from several prominent VCs mostly so they can stay independent).

TRP: Opera uses Chromium, doesn't this limit its ability to innovate?

JT: If you look at Vivaldi, I think the answer is there. Vivaldi is different and innovative. We are using Chromium, but we can do anything we want on the UI-side and we can do changes to Chromium as needed as well.

TRP: What tools do you have to help user migration from other browsers?

JT: We provide bookmark import from most popular browsers. We also import passwords on all platforms from almost all browsers. On Mac, we use Keychain and on Windows we use the platform's own crypto APIs to securely store the imported passwords. The only browser we do not import passwords from currently in MS Edge.

TRP: How does Vivaldi differ from its competitors under the hood?

JT: Under the hood, Vivaldi uses Chromium, but on top of that we use web technology. The user interface of Vivaldi is built using web standards. But the big difference is really in the user interface. Vivaldi provides more useful functionality out of the box than any other browser. We also provide a lot of options. The idea is that people like what they see when they start the browser, but after tweaking a few things, the browser feels like it was made specifically for you. That is what we are going for and based on the feedback we are getting from users, we are having great success with that.

TRP: Where do you stand on Ad-blocking?

JT: It's a difficult issue. We are on the side of the user, and many users want to block ads. At the same time, if we take away the ad-funded models, we will see more paywalls and less content freely available for everyone. That's much worse, in my opinion. Right now users have the option of installing ad blocking add-ons in Vivaldi. That's great and we want everyone to use the browser as they wish. At the same time, we don't want to stifle directly the revenues of small, up-and-coming content creators. We want to ensure they have easy ways to be rewarded for creating great, compelling content.

TRP: Where do you see the future of web browsers evolving? When will a 64-bit version be available?

JT: We are still in the early days. We will continue to see browsers evolve and go onto more devices. We plan to lead the way, just like we did at Opera. On the PC side, we will integrate a lot of functionality that are not found in other browsers today. Watch this space... :) We usually answer "when it's ready". In this case, we offer a 64-bit Windows version today, but mark it as "experimental". We need more people to help us test it before we can remove the "Experimental" tag.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.