Sadly, there hasn’t been a full-scale browser war in years.
Google Chrome was the best browser in the world when it launched and steadily kept improving in its quest for world domination. Somewhere along the way, it became a RAM and battery hogger, but by then it was too late. The world was too deep in Google’s ecosystem.
Today, Chrome is the most popular browser on the planet. I’m typing this in Google Docs on Chrome. I tried using Safari on my Macbook Air when I realised how much battery Chrome was chomping through, but I switched back in less than two weeks. Great bookmarks management, pinned tabs, Google Drive integration and the huge library of third-party extensions ensure I never stray too far from Chrome. Google had me exactly where it wanted me.
And then Vivaldi showed up
Vivaldi is made by the same guys who made the Opera browser. These guys know their business and when you open Vivaldi for the first time, it shows. The first visual element to strike you is the browser colour scheme - it keeps changing as you run around the web.
Visit the Stuff website and everything turns red, go to Facebook and the whole thing becomes blue. Call it gimmicky if you must, but it does make the experience a tad more immersive. And before you ask, of course, you have the option to turn it off.
Every browser worth its salt today is playing the minimalism game and Vivaldi is no different. They all look the same, but where Vivaldi edges ahead is with the utility it offers.
It offers a browser ‘Spotlight Search’-like feature called ‘Quick Commands’ that lets you search through open tabs, bookmarks, history, settings and more with one single keyboard shortcut.
You also get to organise tabs using Tab Stacks - group multiple tabs together under one tab or let them run wild like you do in Chrome. It’s your choice. And that is the point Vivaldi is trying to make - it wants to adapt to you, not the other way around.
Do you like your browser tabs placed at the bottom or on the side of the window? Maybe you prefer a different address bar location too? Vivaldi lets you customise all that and more, such as your keyboard shortcuts, mouse gestures and so on. It’s a little overwhelming at first, to be honest, but slowly you start seeing the magic, like Neo at the end of The Matrix.
At all times while working, I have at least three apps open - Chrome, Mail and Notes. Vivaldi wants me to do away with all of them. It lets you take notes as you browse, remembers which site you were browsing at the time and allows you to add tags and take screenshots. This is very, very nice. Tremendous functionality.
Vivaldi also has a built-in Mail client called M3 because, why not.
In a sea of web browsers made for the everyday user, Vivaldi is a tour de force that is aimed at those who demand much more from their browsing experience than YouTube and Facebook. This is a great browser at best, and a compelling one at worst.
After months of technical previews, Vivaldi 1.0 is now live. Get it here for Windows, Mac and Linux.