TL; DR: In today’s digital-centric world, we use our browsers nearly every day — sometimes for hours at a time. Keeping that in mind, the team behind Vivaldi created a free browser that empowers web novices and developers alike to fine-tune their everyday search experiences. Users can manage their workflows with a range of built-in tools that boost productivity while adding a personal touch through customizable themes. With a user-focused team committed to data privacy and ongoing product development, Vivaldi is continuing to reimagine the way we interact with the web.
From pared-down tiny homes to monochromatic capsule wardrobes, people have flocked to minimalist trends over the last decade — and the tech world has followed suit. Apple traded in its shiny, multi-dimensional icons to adhere to the flat design trend, oversized smartphones have fallen out of popularity, and single-page sites continue to gain traction in the web design world.
Online and off, we’re receiving the message that less is more. But is that true in all cases? Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Vivaldi, told us there’s a downside to minimalism, as exemplified in today’s stripped-down web browsers. “Browser makers look at what the average user requirements are and remove anything out of the ordinary,” Jon said. “But browsers with minimal features make it hard to do anything useful.”
Jon and his team created Vivaldi as a robust, secure, and flexible alternative. The free browser puts the user in control through numerous customization options and an abundance of built-in tools. “Different people have different requirements,” he said. “Our goal is to make everything — even the tough stuff — easy.”
In that way, the company has created a secure, private browser that’s suitable for everyone, from tech newbies all the way up to heavy internet users and professional developers. Users can control how they group and display browser tabs, leverage custom keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures, fine-tune their search options, and adjust the browser’s adaptive interface as needed.
“Our thinking is some people like to use keyboard shortcuts, some like command lines, and others like mouse gestures,” Jon said. “Some like to have their tabs on the left, right or bottom; some hide their tabs to have maximum space. We have support for whatever you like — it’s really powerful.”
With a user-centric team focused on data privacy and continuous product development, Vivaldi is perpetually reimagining the way we interact with the web. If we’re going to spend a good chunk of our lives online, Vivaldi wants to make sure that time is well-spent.
A Developer-Friendly Browser That Puts the User in Control
As Co-Founder and former CEO of Opera Software, Jon knows web browsers. And, despite the range of available browsers on the market, he felt tech-savvy users were underserved before Vivaldi.
“With other browsers, you have to install a lot of plugins and extensions, and even then, they may not function exactly how you want,” he said. “With our browser, there are multiple ways to do one thing, allowing the user to choose what is most natural.”
Jon used the browser’s history tool as an example. Unlike traditional browsers, Vivaldi displays a detailed overview of browsing patterns presented through a visually friendly, calendar-based layout. As with most tools in the browser, the page is accessible through a number of actions, including the top bar of the start page, keyboard shortcuts, and custom mouse gestures, among other paths.
“I like to ask users how they prefer to view history,” he said. “The answers I receive typically include all the different ways we provide, and interestingly, once people have their favorite method, they stick to that method.”
And that’s just for viewing history. Vivaldi is known for an arsenal of built-in tools that add functionality without affecting performance. There’s Notes, a tool allowing users to jot down ideas while they browse; Capture, which makes taking screenshots a breeze; and an Image Properties resource for analyzing detailed metadata — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“For anyone who is doing work on the Internet, these tools make a massive difference,” Jon said.
Manage Your Workflows with Custom Tabs and Resizable Split-Screens
If you’re experimenting with Vivaldi for the first time, Jon told us there are a few features you should try right away. Tab Stacks are a good place to start. The process is easy: Drag one tab on top of another until it becomes dark, and release it to create a stack. It’s a simple way to keep organized and make pages available for future reference.
Vivaldi also makes it easy to create split-screen views through a feature called Tab Tiling. With the click of a button, users can view several tabs at one time, avoiding the hassle of jumping back and forth.
“Even developers, who typically have multiple screens, find value in being able to divide tabs into sections,” Jon said. “Especially if you’re monitoring 10 different sites — you’ll have the tools that you need at hand when you need them.”
According to Jon, tech-savvy users often download Vivaldi, fall in love with it, and end up recommending it to their friends and family. “Everyone is welcome,” he said.
Jon even has his mother and in-laws set up with Vivaldi. “I go through certain steps to make the browser really easy for them to use,” he said. “I’ll put their favorite sites into the Speed Dial section, which is a visual bookmark; and I’ll change some settings to make the browser more easily accessible; and then I’m done.”
A Distributed Team Devoted to Making Sure Users Are Heard
The Vivaldi team is composed of a diverse staff of 45 distributed across seven countries with offices in Norway, Iceland, and the U.S. The company’s headquarters are in Oslo, Norway, where employees enjoy views of a nearby waterfall that flows into a river filled with salmon.
Additional offices in Reykjavík, Iceland, provide ocean views and a place where the global team gathers. “When we’re in Iceland, we tend to go out and experience all that nature has to offer — it’s a very beautiful place,” Jon said.
Jon works out of a home base in Magnolia, Massachusetts, which is north of Boston. Every summer, the Vivaldi team gathers in Magnolia for a month of hiking, barbeques, and — of course — coding. “These gatherings are really important to us,” he said. “We do more things together than a lot of companies, and it’s a very special experience.”
Vivaldi takes care of its employees to ensure they care about the company’s success. Whether that’s through a flexible child care policy or fun events, Jon’s goal is to create a positive working environment. The company also has a strong relationship with its active and generous user community.
“A number of people volunteer to help us,” Jon said. “We have hundreds of people who translate Vivaldi into multiple languages as well as help us run tests and look for bugs. Volunteers are part of what makes us unique.”
Jon believes the volunteers donate their time because they value the browser and care about its success. “That’s a fantastic feeling, and it makes us try even harder to provide a great product,” he said.
Committed to Data Privacy and Continuous Product Development
A mind-blowing 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created on the internet each day, and tech giants aren’t shy about collecting it. But what happens when they’re irresponsible with that data? Facebook and Google both fessed up to breaches that exposed the private data of countless users this year.
Vivaldi, on the other hand, doesn’t track or store user data. “We are very much into privacy, and that’s one of the things that we’re really proud of. We do not collect the information of our users — there are already too many companies out there gathering information,” Jon said.
It all comes down to common sense: “People do not want to be followed to the extent that we see today,” he said.
The company will continue to keep data privacy top-of-mind as it continues to develop the browser and its mobile counterpart, which will be released soon. Instead of monitoring usage to inform product development, Jon told us Vivaldi takes a more straightforward approach.
“We just listen to our users, and if they’re asking for something, we tend to give it to them,” he said.
While that’s far from a minimalist approach, it’s certainly one that works in the user’s favor. “We add functionality based on their requirements,” Jon said. “That functionality won’t be in your way if you don’t use it, but it’s there when you do.”