From offering space for those who want to do difficult stuff to finding a way to fund publishers, browsers are thinking out of the box
You spend the most time on your computer working on the browser. This was why Google went on to make an entire operating system, the Chrome OS, centred around it. However, the experience with browsers is not always good, especially since whatever you do online has started becoming more resource and data intensive. Multiple tab browsing, for instance, can stall your computer if you are not on a high-end machine. That is the opportunity for Vivaldi, the Oslo-based browser company, and other companies thinking out of the box about this aspect.
Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner has seen it all, having been the co-founder and CEO of Opera, still one of the world’s leading browsers. But his approach to the six-month old Vivaldi is different: “We go from one extreme to the other … from the feature-rich software of the past to removing all functionality to make it easy. The problem with that is you make certain things less efficient. Our goal is to marry the two.” He highlights how Vivaldi will offer the feature richness of the old applications with the easier views of the new one. “There are a lot of users who use other browsers and find them going in the direction of simplification. But difficult things are difficult to do and more advanced stuff becomes more cumbersome on these browsers.”
Despite being an advanced browser, Vivaldi has tried its best to keep the resource requirements at a minimum, one of the main issues with other popular browsers. It is also reducing the data requirement for updates by pushing only changes from release to release and not the entire binary, thus reducing the size of the download. Tetzchner’s philosophy is to add feature that his users want. Vivaldi does this “not by monitoring what they do, but by listening to what they have to say.” No wonder Vivaldi is very community driven.
However, not even its most dedicated users could have dreamt up what the browser added in its latest update. Last week, it became the first browser to allow you to control your room lights powered by Philips Hue, thus opening up a new front in the IoT space. Tetzchner dreams of a scenario where users get notified for a new email or web notification through the lighting in the room. “Given the time you spend with it, you would like that flexibility. Some users are willing to learn a trick or two just to speed up their day.”
But not all new browsers are thinking on similar lines. Brave is a browser that aims to make the users experience faster and safer by blocking ads and trackers. However, unlike other browsers who just offer an ad blocker, this browser is offering a solution for publishers too. Its Brave Payments feature lets users transfer funds to site owners even if they have blocked the ads on it. “All of this works while keeping your browsing history private. Your funds are transferred to the site owner through an anonymous ledger system, which makes it impossible for you ever to be identified based on the sites you visit and support,” says a post on the Brave website.
The other big question new browsers have to answer is mobile. Top mobile browsers don’t even have a desktop version, but can a desktop-only browser really survive these days? Vivaldi doesn’t have one yet. The company realised some time ago that it would take longer with the specs they wanted. “We believe it will be out sometime late next year. But obviously mobile is a big part of what we are doing and our primary focus is Android—because it is the primary platform and also because Apple makes it difficult for us,” adds Tetzchner.
Then there is the opportunity with email clients. The world is bored of Outlook, and Thunderbird is on its last legs. Vivaldi is working on one, but will release it only “when it is ready.” It is clearly something Tetzchner hopes will be able to change the way people use their mails, especially those who get a lot of mails. “With Vivaldi you will spend less time organising them. Vivaldi will do that for you and save you a lot of time.”
Meanwhile, for those struggling to triage their mail, it might be a good idea to shift to Notion, an artificial intelligence-based email client for mobile. Notion highlights only the mails that are important to you, offers analytics based on your behaviour and even has a separate Radar tab that curates mails which have requested an action. Pretty neat.