Vivaldi has always been one of the more interesting Chromium-based browsers, thanks in no small part to its emphasis on building tools for power users in a privacy-focused package, but also because of its pedigree, John K. With von Tetzchner as its co-founder and CEO. Today, the Vivaldi team is launching version 4.0 of its browser, and with it, it’s introducing a host of new features, including, among many other things, a beta of new built-in mail, calendar, and RSS clients. Including launch. Vivaldi Translate Key, a privacy-friendly translation service hosted on the company’s own servers and operated by Lingvenex.
Vivaldi is not new to email clients. For example, the company has long offered a webmail service. But creating an offline email client in the browser — as well as a calendar client — almost feels like a return to the early days of browsers like Netscape Navigator and Opera, when having these additional built-in features was almost standard. Von Tetzner argues that for a lot of browser vendors, eliminating those features was about steering users in certain directions (including their own webmail client).
“We chose to say, ‘Well, we don’t want the business model to dictate what we do. We focus on what the users want.’ and I think there is a 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 being a good customer for that, that’s kind of where we’re coming from. And, I mean, we obviously did a lot of things at Opera — some of them we didn’t — and We’re filling a gap with Opera. And now at Vivaldi, we’re doing those things, but also a lot more. We never made a calendar in Opera.
Clearly, a lot of the decisions around Vivaldi mail and calendar were driven by the team’s own priorities. This means, for example, that the mail client does its best to do away with Outlook’s common folder structure, for example, so that its filtering system allows a message to appear in multiple views. Since Vivaldi has always been all about customization, you can choose between the traditional horizontal and wide views you’re probably familiar with from other email clients. One cool feature here is that you can also control which messages you see via a toggle that lets you exclude emails from mailing lists and custom folders from the default view, for example. I like the fact that Vivaldi Mail differentiates between unseen and unread emails as well.
As expected, you can use virtually any email provider here that supports the IMAP and POP protocols, but has built-in support for Gmail as well.
The new built-in calendar also supports most standard calendar providers, including, for example, Google Calendar and iCloud. An interesting design twist here is that the team decided to show all the data available for an event in the calendar, rather than just one or two rows per event. Von Tetzner told me it was very much his choice.
“I think we’ve done things differently. We’ll see what people think,” he said. “But one of the things I wanted with Calendar was I wanted to be able to see all the content . Typically, with the calendar in use today, the size of the available space for text depends on the timeslot size. It doesn’t have to be so. It looks better when the time slot is even, but functionally, it’s better if you can actually read more text.”
Von Tetzner said he clearly wants to turn users away from Google and Microsoft, but believes providing alternatives isn’t enough — they have to be better alternatives.
As for an RSS reader, which is still pretty basic and doesn’t yet offer features like the ability to import and export lists of feeds, for example, the idea here is to help users leave their respective Echo cells. , but also to avoid newsreaders who are focused on news suggestions. The overall implementation here works quite well, with Feed Reader providing almost all the features you would need from a local feed reader. Whenever the browser gets an RSS feed while you’re surfing the web, it will also highlight it in the URL bar, so subscribing to a new feed is as easy as it gets. You can also subscribe to individual YouTube feeds (because even though YouTube doesn’t highlight it, each YouTube channel is still available as a feed).
“With feed, it’s also about getting away from it. [data] collection,” he said. “News services now, watch what you read and profile you on the pretext that you get more relevant news. But in my humble opinion, you subscribe to a few channels and that should be enough. We basically trying to give you – as a user – control over what you are reading, what you are subscribing to, and not learning about your habits or your preferences. Your Habits and preferences and none of our business.”
It all comes down to Vivaldi’s core philosophy of not being driven by advertising as its business model. “We have no need or interest in collecting data on our users,” von Tetzner told me (though it is collecting some basic aggregate data about how many users it has and where in the world they are). In fact, he believes that collecting detailed telemetry about users is only what drives a company to build a product for the average user.
That’s where the new translation feature comes in, which is hosted on Vivaldi’s own servers, so no data is shared with any third party service. Vivaldi uses Lingvenex’s technology for this but hosts it on its own servers. The results are great and, for the most part, at a level comparable to Google Translate, for example (with the sometimes subtle difference between the two where Google Translate often provides more accurate translations).
One feature that pretty much acknowledges that everyone has different browser requirements – and that it can be good for non-power users to build an onramp for Vivaldi too – is Vivaldi’s new onboarding flow that Allows users to choose between three default layouts. There’s an “essential” view for those who just want a basic and very Chrome- or Edge-like experience, a “classic” one for those who want to use some of the browser’s more advanced features, such as panels and its status bar, and “Fully Loaded” for those who want access to every available tool. It’s the last view that also enables the new Vivaldi mail, feed reader, and calendar features by default.
Vivaldi is not profitable right now. It generates some revenue from preinstalled bookmarks and search engine partnerships. But von Tetzner argues that Vivaldi needs to grow its user base a bit more to become a sustainable company. He seems comfortable with that idea — and the fact that its per-user revenue is relatively low. “We’ve done this before and we’ve seen this work. It takes time to build a company like ours,” he said. “I hope people are liking what we’re building — that kind of feeling. I get — people are really liking what we’re making. And then gradually, we will get enough users to pay the bills and then we will take it from there.”