It’s almost quaint to talk about a browser that still has meaningful version numbers. In the good old days, browsers used to release a new major version every two or three years. Nowadays, it’s every two or three weeks.
Vivaldi is unlike most browsers. It’s feature-packed rather than feature-stripped. It goes out of its way to protect people’s privacy. And it lets you tailor the browser to your needs, not the designers’.
We caught up with Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner to find out what’s in Vivaldi 2, the first major upgrade to the browser since it came out of beta in April 2016.
A browser that syncs all your bookmarks, history and saved passwords across different computers is hardly revolutionary. But the way Vivaldi handles the sync is different to most.
The data is protected by end-to-end encryption. It is stored on Vivaldi’s servers, but neither the company nor hackers can access it without the encryption key. That makes it highly unlikely the data will be compromised.
There are downsides to this approach. In addition to the regular username and password users may have to access other Vivaldi services, they will need a separate password for browser sync. And unlike, say, Chrome, you won’t be able to log in from any computer and get access to your bookmarks.
However, as von Tetzchner told us, that’s a deliberate design choice. “We are very privacy oriented,” he said. “We don’t want access to people’s data if we can avoid it.”
Vivaldi took the decision not to allow users to access their synced data from any computer (say in a business lounge) because “it’s always a bad idea to be doing things on computers that you cannot control”.
“There’s a cost to privacy, and we think that’s a price worth paying,” he added.
Tweaked web panels
One of my favourite features in Vivaldi is web panels. With web panels, you can have a website running in a thin strip down the side of the screen, allowing you to keep an eye on live football scores or your Twitter timeline whilst you browse/work in the main window.
Vivaldi 2 changes the behaviour of these panels. Now you can set them to float over the main page instead of splitting the screen. That’s particularly handy if you’re working on a smaller screen laptop rather than a big desktop monitor, although as ever with Vivaldi, you have the choice. Split screen or floating panels are amongst the many settings you can tweak.
Adjustable tab tiles
Vivaldi lets you create stacks of tiles – hosting multiple websites under one tab. Let’s say you’re trying to keep track of multiple live feeds (share prices, sports scores etc), you can view all those sites at once in different ’tiles’ in the same browser window.
Vivaldi 2 now lets you adjust the size of those tiles independently. So if you want one site in a thin strip and another much wider, you only have to drag the edge of the tile to resize it.
You can also save that session and Vivaldi will remember the spacing of the tiles that you set, saving you from making the same adjustments every time.
Where’s the mobile version and email client?
Right from the moment Vivaldi was first announced in 2015, the company has promised it will deliver an email client that allows you to juggle multiple email accounts from within the browser. Three years on, it’s still not here. So what’s the story?
“It’s looking great,” promises von Tetzchner. “I’ve been using it for a really long time [in test builds]. I don’t think it’s quite there yet. It needs polishing.”
When will we see it? He won’t commit to a timeline, but the fact that he volunteered information on the email client rather than having it dragged out of him gives me hope it won’t be too much longer.
And what of a mobile version of Vivaldi, so that you can keep your smartphone and desktop browsers in perfect synchronicity, instead of having to use an alternative on your mobile? Again, von Tetzchner’s not going to be drawn into setting a release date, but he says that work on the mobile browser “will be moving more quickly” now that Vivaldi 2 is out of the door.
“We’re trying to do it as quickly as possible,” he adds.
It sounds like the Vivaldi devs are in for some long nights.
Now read this: How do I save a group of tabs in Vivaldi?