Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner has a towering personality. In spite of his 6'5" frame, he exudes calm. When we start talking about technology trapped in a smartphone, he pops out at least 5 or 6 devices from his bag and lay them out on the table.
"I love trying out new smartphones. In different countries, the smartphones are made differently for the users to suit their needs. It's fascinating that a smartphone in India would be so divergent from the one used by Chinese consumers. I mostly use Android, as it allows me to test out diversity," he says.
Von Tezchener started his journey in the browser world by founding Opera Software in 1995. The company grew gradually into a giant as it saw many browsers come and go. One of the company's products, Opera Mini, is still on the top of the charts among mobile browsers.
He left the company in 2011 to start Vivaldi Technologies. With this new venture, he aims to achieve new heights.
"At Vivaldi, we strive to make a browser that is suitable for everyone's needs. We have a community where we don't ignore suggestions made by users. Even a minor request is given serious weight. Experimenting with technology is good when we have core experience sorted out," he says.
When you open Vivaldi browser, you see enough space for your web page without any hindrance. But don't be mistaken; it is full of functionalities and goodies. In the core of it is the Chromium engine which also powers the Chrome browser. And von Tetzchner has made sure that Vivaldi is built on open source so the community can contribute.
One of the big positives of using Vivaldi is tab management. Often, while using Chrome, Firefox or some other browser, we have many tabs open. Sometimes we tend to lose track when something happens or accidentally close one tab instead of the other. Vivaldi offers tab stacking, which allows users to group a bunch of tabs into one. And for switching between tabs from a stack, you just have to hover over the main tab and select the one you want.
Another feature is called Tab tiling, which is like using two tabs on a single screen simultaneously. It resembles split-screen functionalities used across operating systems around the world.
Von Tezchener brings up the problem which led to the evolution of this feature. "While using browsers, you would have found out that tabs are annoying. At one point, you might even have so many tabs open that you can't see the names on them. We wanted to solve that problem".
Vivaldi has its own flavour of funkiness as well. You can choose themes, colours, customise tab positions, font size easily from a handy setting menu. One of the unique experiences about using this browser is that it changes colours according to the website you open. For instance, the top bar is blue when you open Facebook and green if you open WhatsApp web.
In the most recent release of Vivaldi 1.5, it has done an integration with the smart-bulb Phillips hue. While it may seem like a gimmick, it can actually be a step towards connecting the browsing experience with the environment surrounding you.
Once the users get the taste of the product it is easy to grab the attention. In past few decades we have seen many browsers rise and fall. The opportunity is there.
"It's a cool thing to play with. Surely, it isn't a life-changing feature, but it's a step in the direction of the connected future," Von Tezchener says. Although his focus is the adoption of the browser worldwide, it is certainly getting love from the power-user community.
"We haven't got any negative reviews. Journalists love it because the note-taking feature we have embedded into the side bar, keyboard enthusiasts love it because of the quick commands and customisable keyboard shortcuts, and the developer community loves it because it is open source," he says. "Additionally, we allow you to keep your browser as it is, even when you close the window. We also allow you to name the tab stacks so you wouldn't accidentally close your work stack. There is also the full history of tabs stored in the browser so you can go back to any tab you want."
When asked about the growth and the adoption rate of the browser, he says new browsers often take time to take off.
"Even with Opera, it took years for us to scale. But once we were stable, the growth was exponential. When we released Opera 8 in 2005, we reached a million users within two days. Once the users get the taste of the product, it is easy to grab people's attention. In past few decades, we have seen many browsers rise and fall. But the opportunity for growth is still there," he says.
Vivaldi is gearing up for the mobile market as well, where they want to solve a lot of problems which are now currently addressed by the major set of mobile browsers. But right now, the focus from the veteran of browsers is on desktop.
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