Vivaldi just released version 3.1 of it’s unique web browser. Let’s take a deeper look!
To fully appreciate Vivaldi we have to go back a few years. It’s founder, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner was also the co founder of the well known browser: Opera. Back then, Jon and his team managed to establish a real competitor to the big players with Opera reaching 300 million users. However, around 2010/2011 Opera started moving into a direction Jon was not happy with. They had taken on board outside investors and as one might imagine, these became more and more focused on the the revenue side of things. Development of Opera slowed down as a result and Jon decided to leave. Opera was also known for it’s large community based around my Opera. When this service was being shut down by Opera, Jon decided to give it a new home at vivaldi.net. After successfully setting up the new community Jon went back to doing what he knew to do best: Develop a web browser. The young company decided to use Chromium as a base since they lacked the resources to completely develop one from scratch – They didn’t want to repeat the mistake with outside investors. They managed to build up Vivaldi with a motivated team of around 35 employees and used their community as an additional resource for input and testing. Vivaldi 1.0 was released 4 years ago and development has come a long way since then. They now have around 1.5 million active users but are hoping for a lot more.
Vivaldi has it’s main office in Oslo, Norway and another one in Iceland. There is also an annual retreat in the US. My main concern was on how they were being funded since that part of the world doesn’t exactly run on low wages. Turns out the main source of income is from search results and the book marks you see on the home page when you first install the browser. Fair enough!
Although most of Vivaldi’s source code is open and available, it is not open source software and I’d imagine it is one reason they are not more popular in the Linux community.
What sets Vivaldi apart from the competition, it’s raison d’etre, are the features and customization. Vivaldi is packed with them while maintaining a fast and responsive interface.
You can get Vivaldi from their downloads’ site and you have options for both DEB and RPM builds, both in 32 and 64 bit versions. There is also a DEB for ARM release. I downloaded the 64 bit RPM version for my Fedora 32 system. The download was about 70MB and I installed it by opening it with Fedora’s Software app. When you first run it you are greeted with a set of basic options to get started: You can choose to import your bookmarks and settings from either Chrome or Firefox, then you can choose your ad & tracking preferences, followed by theme selection and tabs’ location.
I chose the common setup, with tabs on the top. These tabs sit inside the title bar, saving some real estate. On the bottom, you loose that space again somewhat with the status bar (removable) that let’s you access your preferences, side panel, a handy screen shot tool, magnification options and a clock. The side panel is where you interact with your bookmarks, downloads, history and notes. The panel also allows you to add a web panel, basically a window for another website. This could be handy for having a chat or a twitter feed running side by side with your main browsing. You can handily show/hide the additional window with a single click. You can also stack tabs and then choose the tab by clicking on the small preview with your mouse pointer. Alternatively you can choose to see all tabs of a stack in a tiled view
(up to 4). So lot’s of flexibility for folks with big screens.
The notable update in this version is the built-in notes feature. It let’s you take notes in the side bar or open the app in a full window. It comes complete with some formatting features and ability to insert photos. The notes get fully synchronized too, so you can start something on one machine and continue later on another. Vivaldi stores sync data with end-to-end encryption on it’s own servers located in Iceland.
Other built-in tools: Image info & meta data can be inspected within pages without leaving the browser. There is also a screen shot tool built in that allows shots to be saved as PNG or JPG files – Quite useful!
There is even more to Vivaldi, especially in the look and feel area where a lot of customization is possible. At first, all these options might seem a bit overwhelming, but I have to admit after working with it for a few hours for this review it started to grow on me. The text of this review was written within the notes app of the browser, very handy!
The next big thing to look out for at Vivaldi: The M3 email client that has been worked on for a long time. Most of us have moved to web clients but having it built into the browser will be an interesting feature. Jon mentioned in the Vivaldi forums a month ago that a version for public testing will be out soon.
Hopefully their user base will grow. 1.5 million users isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. Old habits die hard and it’s not easy to lure users to a new browser, especially when they look more complex at first glance. On Windows or Mac OS, I wouldn’t hesitate using Vivaldi for a second. On Linux, however, the fact that it is not fully open source software will always stand against it.