For many years, Jon von Tetzchner, who co-founded Opera Software in 1995, was — unsurprisingly — using Opera as his browser of choice. Yet, in 2011, von Tetzchner announced he was leaving the company citing differences with the board on Opera’s future.
“After I quit, Opera gradually moved in a different direction quite abruptly. They decided to do what everyone else was doing, to build a fairly limited browser,” said von Tetzchner in an interview with tech.eu.
With the Opera browser no longer doing what he wanted it to do, von Tetzchner was faced with a dilemma – which browser to use now?
That’s where Vivaldi Technologies chimes in.
Founded in 2013 by von Tetzchner and fellow former Opera employee Tatsuki Tomita, the startup operates a community site at Vivaldi.net, but is mostly focused on building the Vivaldi web browser.
Since January 2015, the team has launched two technical previews of the browser, which have garnered one million downloads to date, von Tetzchner told me. It’s a pretty impressive milestone, considering Vivaldi hasn’t even hit beta stage yet.
“The feedback we’ve been getting is that what we’re doing is hitting a nerve... A lot of people want to have browser that can do more and allows them to work more efficiently with the Internet – something that puts the user in focus somewhat less than the business model,” explained von Tetzchner.
Freedom for the ‘power user’
Vivaldi is not targeting the average Web user, but rather a similar user segment to the one Opera had set its sights on – the ‘power user’. More specifically, the ones who want more features and the ability to easily customise it to their own needs. But is there really room for another browser in the market?
“The feeling is that the options out there, they’re moving in a certain direction and it’s all about simplification. The browsers, which are generally fairly big vendors, have a lot of distribution and their focus is to gather more users. Typically that means they go for a limited browser with the idea that advanced users can download extensions and things like that,” responded von Tetzchner.
However, going down this route usually means the browser ends up getting weighed down, he added.
Ultimately, the idea behind Vivaldi is to offer an alternative that is rich in functionality and allows advanced users to easily implement their own way of working.
Vivaldi is promising a slew of features to help power users work more efficiently within the browser, including customisable keyboard shortcuts as quick commands, a Notes panel to help remember and mark certain sites, as well as a tab stack function to tackle the familiar problem of having too many tabs open.
“If you have 50 tabs open, it can be too much, so we're offering tab stacking, which means you put multiple tabs underneath one. It’s basically providing a formal hierarchy,” he elaborated.
Bookmarks are also an important aspect of Vivaldi. The bookmarks bar can consist of icons, text, or both. It can be placed on the top or bottom, left or right. Perhaps it seems excessive to offer so much freedom in customisation, but von Tetzchner is convinced that it’s precisely these details that its target user is looking for.
“This is all under the assumption that you, the user, have your own way of doing things... A lot of people want to be able to do things their way,” he said.
Vivaldi isn’t the only one that wants to refresh the browser market though. Microsoft recently released a preview of Project Spartan, which is slated to replace Internet Explorer as the default browser on Windows 10. Additionally, Russian search giant Yandex unveiled an alpha version of its concept Chromium-based browser in November 2014.
At the moment, Vivaldi Technologies – which is self-funded – is a team of 25 with most people working out of the startup's two main offices in Iceland and Norway. The rest of the employees are spread across the US, Czech Republic, Finland and Russia.
When asked about the launch timeline for Vivaldi, von Tetzchner said releases will be ongoing until the company feels the product is ready. No external date has been set.
Although it’s still too early to make any firm judgements on Vivaldi’s functionality, if anything, the technical previews are indication that the browser is certainly one to keep an eye on.
So what can we expect from the company in the coming year?
“We will focus on doing things differently – combining more functionality than you’re used to and providing more options than you're used to. Visually, it's also different. While most browsers have been a bit grey, we’re including more colours... and being more alive," answered von Tetzchner. "We will continue down the route of providing a viable choice for those that want more from their browsers.”
Image of Jon von Tetzchner courtesy of Vivaldi Technologies.
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