Vivaldi has always been one of the more interesting Chromium-based browsers, largely due to the emphasis on building tools for power users in a privacy-centric package, but also because of its pedigree. , with former Opera CEO Jon. von Tetzchner as co-founder and CEO. Today, the Vivaldi team is launching version 4.0 of its browser and with this it introduces a host of new features which, among other things, include the beta version of new integrated email, calendar and RSS clients, as well as the launch of Vivaldi Translate, a privacy-friendly translation service hosted on the company’s own servers and powered by Lingvanex.
Vivaldi is not new to email clients. The company has a long history of providing a webmail service, for example. But creating an offline email client in the browser – as well as a calendar client – almost feels like a throwback to the early days of browsers, like Netscape Navigator and Opera, when these additional built-in features were almost standard. Von Tetzchner argues that for many browser vendors removing these features meant pointing users in certain directions (including their own webmail clients).
“We chose to say, ‘Okay, we don’t want the business model to decide what we do. Rather, we focus on what users want. And I think there is significant value [in a built-in email client]. Most of us use email – at different levels some use it a lot, some less, but basically everyone has at least one email account, ”he said. “So having a good client for that is kind of where we come from. And, I mean, we’ve obviously done a lot of these things at Opera – some of them we haven’t – and we’re filling a void with what Opera was doing before. And now at Vivaldi we do these things, but also a lot more. We never made a calendar at the Opera.
Obviously, many decisions regarding Vivaldi Mail and Calendar were driven by the team’s own preferences. This means, for example, that the Mail client does its best to remove the usual folder structure of an Outlook, for example, so that its filtering system allows a message to appear in multiple views. Since Vivaldi has always been about personalization, you can choose between the traditional horizontal and wide views that you probably know from other email clients. A cool feature here is that you can also control what messages you see with toggles that let you exclude emails from mailing lists and custom folders from the default view, for example. I like that Vivaldi Mail also distinguishes between unseen and unread emails.
As expected, you can use pretty much any email provider here that supports IMAP and POP, but there’s built-in support for Gmail as well.
The new built-in calendar also supports most standard calendar providers, including Google Calendar and iCloud, for example. An interesting design twist here is that the team decided to display all the data available for an event directly in the calendar instead of just one or two rows per event. Von Tetzchner tells me that is quite his preference.
“I think we did things differently. We’ll see what people think about it, ”he said. “But one of the things I wanted with the calendar, I wanted to be able to see all of the content. Typically, with calendars in use today, the size of the space available for text depends on the size of the time slot. It doesn’t have to be that way. It looks best when the time slots are equal, but functionally it’s better that you can actually read more text.
Von Tetzchner noted that he obviously wanted to steer users away from Google and Microsoft, but he thinks it’s not enough to provide alternatives – they have to be better alternatives.
As for the RSS reader, which remains fairly basic and does not yet offer features like the ability to import and export feed lists, for example, the idea here is to help users get out of their rooms. respective echo but also to avoid news readers who are focused on news suggestions. The overall implementation here works quite well, with the feed reader providing pretty much all the functionality you would need from a local feed reader. Whenever the browser finds an RSS feed while you are surfing the web, it also highlights it in the URL bar, so subscribing to new feeds is about as easy as it gets. You can also subscribe to individual YouTube feeds (because even though YouTube doesn’t highlight it, every YouTube channel is still available as a feed).
“With the flows, it is also a question of moving away from [data] collection, ”he said. “News services now they watch what you read and build profiles on you with the excuse that you then get more relevant news. But IMHO you do subscribe to some channels and that should be enough. We are basically trying to give you, as a user, control over what you read, what you subscribe to and not know your habits or preferences. These are your habits and preferences and none of our business.
It all comes down to Vivaldi’s core philosophy of not being guided by advertising as a business model. “We have no need or interest in collecting data on our users,” von Tetzchner told me (although he collects basic aggregate data on how many users he has and where they are located. in the world). Indeed, he believes that collecting detailed telemetry data about users only motivates a company to create a product for the average user.
This is also where the new translation functionality comes in, which is hosted on Vivaldi’s own servers, so none of the data is shared with a third-party service. Vivaldi uses Lingvanex technology for this but hosts it on its own servers. The results are quite good and for the most part at a level comparable to Google Translate, for example (with occasional subtle differences between the two where Google Translate would often offer the most accurate translation).
One feature that recognizes very well that everyone has different requirements for a browser – and that it might be interesting to create a ramp to Vivaldi for non-experienced users as well – is the new onboarding flow of Vivaldi which allows users to choose between three default layouts. There is an “essential” view for those who only want a basic experience and very similar to Chrome or Edge, “classic” for those who want to use some of the more advanced features of the browser like panels and its status bar. , and “fully loaded” for those who want access to all the tools available. It is this last view that also activates the new features of Vivaldi Mail, Feed Reader and Calendar by default.
For now, Vivaldi is not profitable. It generates income through preinstalled bookmarks and partnerships with search engines. But von Tetzchner argues that Vivaldi just needs to grow its user base a bit more to become a sustainable business. He seems comfortable with the idea – and the fact that his revenue per user is relatively low. “We’ve done it before and we’ve seen this work. It takes time to build a business like ours, ”he said. “I hope people like what we’re building – that’s the kind of feeling I have – people really like what we’re building. And then little by little, we’ll have enough users to pay the bills, and then we’ll go from there.