Jon von Tetzchner and the Vivaldi Browser

Opera Co-Founder Releases New Web Browser

Jon von Tetzchner Vivaldi
Vivaldi Technologies

Earlier this month the first official version of the Vivaldi Web browser was released for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows operating systems. The name behind Vivaldi is well-known in the browser world, Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner. Also the former CEO of Opera Software, von Tetzchner and his team set out to create a browser aimed at power users who are seeking more flexibility.

About Web Browsers recently had the opportunity to discuss Vivaldi, including its place in an already crowded browser market, with von Tetzchner.

When you and Geir (Ivarsøy) started Opera, user individuality was a key driving force behind the design. It seems like individual flexibility, in terms of both design and functionality, is also one of your main selling points now with Vivaldi. Did you intentionally take a similar approach here as you did when the idea of Opera was first conceived?

Yes, very much so. In many ways Vivaldi is created due to Opera changing its focus with regards to user-centric design. Opera decided to follow the other browsers in only focusing on simplicity, instead of user requirements. This left a lot of dissatisfied users, including myself. There was no real alternative to making a new browser.

A large part of Opera's evolution was a direct reflection of community feedback. Vivaldi's forums already seem quite active. Will future iterations be as heavily influenced by user reaction and requests as we saw with Opera early on? If so, do you have resources on your team dedicated to interacting with your user base with this specific purpose in mind?

Yes. This is what we are all about. The whole team engages with users. We all love to get their feedback and give them what they want. It is a great feeling when you see your efforts rewarded through happy users.

Many of our readers tend to stay loyal to their favorite browser, even returning to what they're familiar with after trying an alternative for a while. What is it about Vivaldi that you're hoping will not only convince users to try it out but also make it their everyday choice?

It is all about the user-centric design. First when people download Vivaldi, they will notice the fresh, colorful design. But after spending time with the browser and changing a few settings, people realize that the browser feels just right. Kind of like it was made for them in particular. That is what we are going for and we sense from the feedback we are getting that we have a lot of success with this.

The large majority of customizable features in Vivaldi 1.0 revolve around browser tabs and gestures. What areas are you planning to tackle next along the same 'have it your way' line?

Every part of the browser will be customizable. We have focused a bit on tabs and gestures, and there will be more focus on that for sure, but there are so many other things you can tailor to your liking. Keyboard shortcuts are one thing. Placement of items are another. We will continue until users can get the browser to be just right for them based on feedback we get, but also on ways we think of to be even better. It is what we do.

There are some conflicting stories out there regarding why you chose the name Vivaldi. Can you settle the debate by letting our readers know the specific reason(s) that name was chosen?

We wanted a short, international name, just like we did with Opera. We found Vivaldi and it just felt right.

In the same vein, what's behind the 'Modern Classic' theme?

It’s a homage to the “classic style” browser with a full feature set, but with a modern touch. But it is also just cool.

What is Vivaldi's stance on Do Not Track technology? How about on ad blocking?

We support Do Not Track. There are a lot of good ad blocking extensions for users that want to use that.

Vivaldi, like several other browsers, is based on Chromium. Was the ability to use the large number of third-party extensions already in existence a factor in utilizing this project? What else swayed the decision to use Chromium?

Yes, that was a factor. Most of all it was a question of selecting a safe choice. Chrome clearly has a lot of users and other vendors, such as Opera, have chosen to use Chromium as well. We feel it is a quality piece of code that we can work with. The Mozilla code and WebKit would have been good options as well, but we just felt Chromium was safer and has more of the things we need.

Was Vivaldi created with the intent of competing with the small group of browsers who consistently hold most of the market share, or do you see it becoming more of a niche browser?

We are building a browser for users, for our friends. We hope a lot of people will choose Vivaldi, but the focus is really on building a great browser. Then we take it from there.

The revenue source from the Vivaldi browser appears to be from advertising and search partners. Can you elaborate on why some of these particular partners were chosen, such as Bing as the default search browser and eBay as a tile on the Speed Dial interface?

We generate revenue from search and select bookmarks. We try to select the kind of partners our users will like. All our deals are revenue share, so it is important to make the right choices as otherwise people will just change search engines and delete the bookmarks. To be frank, we include a number of bookmarks as well that generate no revenue for us. We are trying to include a great set for the benefit of our users and the list has been generated based on user feedback. We have customized bookmarks for many countries.

Is the fact that Vivaldi has no outside funding crucial when it comes to making decisions on who to partner with and what direction to take in terms of new functionality in subsequent releases?

The most important thing is that we can focus on one thing and one thing only, providing a great browser for our users. There is no exit plan, there is just the plan to build a great browser. The decision on what to add with respect to features and partners is based on what we believe our users want and on direct feedback from our users.

In my limited time using Vivaldi, I've found that the Web Panels feature is something that I could see incorporating into my daily routine on a long-term basis. In terms of unique features in version 1.0, which one are you most excited about?

There is a long list. I like the panels as well. They are simple to use, yet very powerful. Tab stacking and tab stack tiling -- I use this a lot myself. The single key keyboard shortcuts, I cannot do without them myself. It is just such a time saver. Mouse gestures. But it is really about the user and what they like and when you ask them you get very different answers. It is all individual.

Is a mobile version on the horizon?

We are working on it, but it will take some time.

What else can we expect from Vivaldi in the near future in terms of significant upgrades or new functionality?

We have said that we will add a mail client. That is in the works and is a high priority, but you can also just expect more of the same. More features, more options, more individual design. It is what our users want and what they want is what we want as well.

Vivaldi browser can be downloaded via the company's official website.