Remember when the web were browsers useful tools? Remember when you could follow the sites you liked, check your emails, and check your calendar, all without leaving the browser? Or should I say remember when you could do it all without Big Tech feeding your personal data into the gaping mouth of surveillance capitalism?

I remember those days because I still live there, thanks to a web browser you might not have heard of: Vivaldi.

This week, the team behind the Vivaldi web browser release of version 4.0, which seems like a good time to tell you that you have to try it. To riff on Neil Stephenson, Vivaldi outperforms all other web browsers “in much the same way the midday sun makes the stars … it’s not just bigger and brighter, it just makes everything else disappear.”

Personalization is the key

Stephenson was in fact talk about the Emacs text editor, whose endless recursion makes him the programmer Holy grail of text editors. But I think the metaphor applies just as well to Vivaldi, compared to other web browsers. I don’t think it’s too much to say that Vivaldi is the Emacs of web browsers.

Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner was also the co-founder of Opera, one of the first web browsers to offer features like pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing. The level of customization and advanced user features that set Opera apart are also present today in Vivaldi, along with many others.

At first glance, Vivaldi looks like a slightly more colorful version of your average web browser. The color reflection of the webpage is a notable feature of Vivaldi that Apple shamelessly copied into Safari. It’s only when you’ve digged into Vivaldi’s settings that you’ll discover its true power: the ability to tailor your browsing experience exactly the way you want it.

Like Emacs, each Vivaldi’s setup and experience may be different, and that’s the point. Vivaldi’s slogan is “A web browser for our friends”. By “our friends”, Vivaldi means people like you and me– assuming, of course, that you’re someone who’s on the web to work and keep in touch with your friends, rather than consuming the whims and algorithms of Big Tech.

For example, I like keyboard shortcuts and have never used a mouse gesture in my life. Vivaldi supports both. I take advantage of customizable keyboard shortcuts and ignore mouse gestures, and everyone wins. Vivaldi 4.0 recognizes this with a new dialog offering a few feature presets: Essentials, Classic, or my favorite, Fully Loaded.

Scott Gilbertson via Vivaldi

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