Vivaldi, the web browser for power users, has moved to the 2.0 level with a faster, sleeker version that now includes synchronization between computers. Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner, who co-founded both Vivaldi and Opera, told ZDNet that sync was the feature most frequently requested by users of earlier versions. Its inclusion should prompt more people to try Vivaldi, particularly Google Chrome users with privacy concerns.
Vivaldi is based on open source Chromium code, so it renders sites like Chrome, but without Google's proprietary additions.
Many of the improvements in Vivaldi 2.0 are, in von Tetzchner's phrase, "under the hood". Some of these have provided dramatically faster start-up times for long-term users like me.
"Sync is a major feature for us," said von Tetzchner, adding that it meant building servers as well as writing client code.
"We sync more than Chrome, and we provide end-to-end encryption," he said.
Vivaldi 2.0 includes the options to synchronize bookmarks and speed-dial entries, passwords, auto-complete data, typed history, extensions and notes (except attachments).
SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (cover story PDF)
I ran sync using a free Vivaldi.net account and the system strongly encouraged me to create a new password for the synchronization instead of leaving that entry blank. I asked von Tetzchner why. He said the first password logged me on to the Vivaldi server while the second was used only for encryption: "We don't want to be able to read any of your data."
He added: "We don't collect any information about what you do, and we're not trying to build a profile on you on your computer or anywhere else."
Vivaldi has also changed the start-up behaviour, providing much faster start-up times for users with large numbers of bookmarks (because Vivaldi was fetching favicons), lots of history and hundreds of downloads (because Vivaldi never clears your download history). "The downloads panel will remember everything, so just reading the file icons became a very heavy load."
Von Tetzchner said "you really have to be using Vivaldi for a really long time" to run into these problems. They don't appear in casual testing or most normal use.
Vivaldi 2.0 also includes dozens of smaller enhancements such as visual improvements to the set-up sequence, more background images, and more ways to switch tabs. With the tab-tiling feature -- which lets you view a lot of tabs on one page -- you can now change the sizes of individual tiles by dragging the borders.
However, another major feature may have to wait for version 3.0: the email client.
You've not got mail
Vivaldi already offers a web-based email service, which works well. However, von Tetzchner wants Vivaldi to include "a mail client which is in line with what we did in Opera. A lot of people liked what we used to call M2. We're calling our version M3 internally."
I have seen but not used M3 and it looked OK to me.
"I'm enjoying using it," he said, but it's not ready yet. "We want it to be a little bit better before rolling it out."
If you're looking for a way out of the forthcoming Gmail "upgrade" that's about to be imposed, this isn't it.
Vivaldi is a self-financing start-up based in Oslo, Norway, with offices in Reykjavik in Iceland and in Boston and Palo Alto in the USA. It also has remote developers in some other countries. There's now one in Wales.
Vivaldi is still a small player, but von Tetzchner says things are going well, based on his previous experience of doing much the same thing with Opera.
He has no desire to take over the world. The aim is to make $1 per year per user, and a couple of million users will generate enough money to sustain Vivaldi's development. There are more than enough geeks and power users around, so it's just a question of reaching them. If enough people like the product, von Tetzchner is confident that Vivaldi will get there by word-of-mouth.
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How to use Vivaldi's Web Panels (TechRepublic)
You may not have heard about the Vivaldi web browser, but once you try out Web Panels, it might well become your default. Here's a look at how to use this feature.