New browser Vivaldi targets those tired of UI austerity

Former Opera CEO launches 'modern classic' browser

Vivaldi download
Credit: Vivaldi

Vivaldi today launched its same-named browser, adding another to the accumulating collection of boutique browsers hoping to steal some share from the big names in the business.

The Vivaldi browser reached version 1.0 Wednesday after a 14-month beta gestation.

Billed as a "modern classic" on one hand, and a "throwback" on another, Vivaldi was created by a team mostly made up of former Opera engineers, with the company headed by Jon von Tetzchner, co-founder of Opera Software. Von Tetzchner left Opera in 2011 after a disagreement with the firm's board of directors and other managers.

"We set out on a mission to make web browsers powerful again," von Tetzchner said in a statement. "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."

Along those lines, Vivaldi stresses customizability -- the browser's Preferences pane is packed with options -- in a play against the minimalism most browser designers now revere. The latter perspective was kicked off eight years ago by Google's Chrome and amplified by the popularity of mobile devices, where simplicity reigns. Streamlined user interfaces (UIs) and curtailed feature sets have since been adopted by others, including Microsoft for Edge and, to a lesser extent, Mozilla for Firefox.

Vivaldi relies on the Blink rendering engine, a fork of the older WebKit that Google branched in 2013 and now uses as the foundation of Chrome. Opera also leans on Blink, while Apple's Safari retains the WebKit engine. Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Edge each sport their own, Redmond-made, renderers.

Vivaldi's dependence on Blink not only smoothed development, but also meant that users can install and run extensions designed for Chrome. Both Microsoft and Mozilla have also announced or deployed similar support for Chrome add-ons, another element in the market's covert surrender to the increasing dominance of Google's browser.

According to von Tetzchner, Vivaldi shares other characteristics with rival browsers, specifically Firefox and Opera.

"We generate revenue from affiliate deals," von Tetzchner said in an email reply to questions Wednesday. "This includes search and select bookmarks." Vivaldi's default search provider is Microsoft's Bing, and the bookmarks von Tetzchner mentioned are to a variety of websites that pre-populate the browser's bookmark folders.

"Most of the bookmarks do not generate revenue for us," von Tetzchner added. "We try hard to select the kind of partners people like and see as features. As all deals are revenue share, introducing partners people do not like has only negative value to us."

Users can switch to a different search engine and easily delete the pre-loaded bookmarks.

Future plans for Vivaldi include adding bookmark, open tab and password synchronization -- a standard service in other browsers -- and versions for mobile operating systems. "Android is a given ... but iOS is a little more complicated," said von Tetzchner. "Clearly, we would like to provide an iOS version as well."

He declined to offer a timetable for Vivaldi on mobile.

But von Tetzchner rejected the idea of baking an ad-blocker into Vivaldi, a measure that some browser makers have studied. Last month, Opera Software revealed an integrated blocker -- as opposed to a third-party extension such as Adblock Plus -- in a developer preview of an upcoming version. And Brave, a new browser from a team led by Brendan Eich, for two weeks in 2014 the CEO of Mozilla, is based around the ad-blocking concept.

"Any user [who] wants to use ad blocking can download an ad blocker," said von Tetzchner. "[But] we do not plan to add a built-in ad blocker."

Vivaldi runs on Windows, OS X and Linux -- no surprise since Chrome supports those platforms -- and can be downloaded free of charge from Vivaldi's website. The Windows and Linux browsers are available in 32- and 64-bit versions.

vivaldi 1.0 Vivaldi

Vivaldi packs plenty of customization and a slew of features aimed at power users who favor an older-fashioned look and feel. And it sports options galore, like this view where tabs are thumbnails along the side.

This story, "New browser Vivaldi targets those tired of UI austerity" was originally published by Computerworld.