Ars reviews Vivaldi




  • Moderator

    Pretty good review. Gotta love all the free publicity.

    It's almost ironic that a browser comes out with only a FRACTION of what classic Opera had (though of course it's shooting for so much more, and rapidly heading that direction), and is already notable for being remarkably configurable and feature-rich. This is a sign of how far browsers have slid toward being mere kiosk displays.



  • Even if Vivaldi never breaks double digits in market share, I just really hope we eat Opera's lunch. With more reviews like this, chances seem pretty good.



  • "Another familiar feature for Opera refugees …"
    Haha, that is exactly what I am - an Opera refugee!



  • Excellent article, particularly the background material immediately ahead of the Vivaldi review sections. Anyone wanting to know how so many browsers got to be the way they are in recent years would be well-served to read the intro and first section. It explains very succinctly what has occurred and why, especially with browsers like Firefox and Opera. At root, it's simply been a corporate shift from focusing on power usage over to a mass-consumption market dominated by the non-technical crowd, unfortunately leaving the power users "barefoot and cold" with only aging tools at their disposal.

    Vivaldi offers hope (and something concrete) that good things are finally happening for power users, perhaps the first such hope in three or four years.



  • I send them an email to review it the day it was launched. Not sure why I took them so long…

    Even if Vivaldi never goes mainstream, which seems to be what some people there are commenting you don't have to worry about it. Opera wanted to be mainstream, Vivaldi intentions is not. It seems some of their readers think they are trying to be a new browser vs the rest.

    Just because I read they said it would not last long as the old Opera didn't gain mass market either.

    First of all, I don't think this was the goal for Vivaldi creators. They are more behind the old Opera market and if they get a couple of millions users, they will have achieved that goal, this is why its branded as a browser for our friends, they absolutely know and understand they are not trying to compete vs Chrome or Explorer which the new Opera is trying.

    Even so, don't fool yourself. People do appreciate a good browser and if Vivaldi keeps this going on, it can even achieve more market than then old Opera ever did. If that ever happens, that will be a slap in the face for Opera and their shareholders and even their current CEO. Opera was never a bad browser, it had bugs but its Presto engine was probably its main reason why it never took off, its was to good for an era where websites where very bad coded and never followed web standards.

    Also, I'm absolutely willing to pay for this browser in the future. Even if its stays on a small niche market, I will absolutely pay for something like this even a yearly fee. I don't care about popularity, I honestly think there are a lot of people that work with their browser and for those people the browser is more like a work tool than just watching videos and posting on Facebook. Vivaldi may be something exclusive today, but just remember, its power users that give trends to non power users.

    Just look how Microsoft finally realized that Desktop users are the people that create, work, this is why they are backpedaling their Windows 8 approach which tried to convert Windows into a touch/phone OS. Windows 10 is focused on desktops users again, why? Because Microsoft understands people work on desktops. No wonder their new slogan for Windows 10 is For those that Do.

    Vivaldi and the old Opera had a similar approach. They are targeted at power users, or people that actually work with their browsers. The rest of the browsers are targeted at quantity, not quality. If you are targeting at mass markets, then you need to make things very simple and this is why for power users those browsers just suck. They are not enough.

    Of course exposition is great, and Ars is actually an excellent market for Vivaldi users, as that website is read mainly by geeks.



  • Of the few articles written thus far about V this was the most detailed and best. Obviously the writer looked at it favorably. I suspect there will be more favorable reviews to come.



  • Amen - had opera since the explorer - navigator war!



  • "It had bugs but its Presto engine was probably its main reason why it never took off" With all due respect I disagree that that presto was the main problem - Netscape and MS explorer had as many bugs.
    The problem was mainly Microsoft - You could get a free browser from Microsoft, and Opera tried initially to market Opera rather than providing it free. No contest! Netscape could not compete either. Further, when Microsoft included it in the operating system so all PC customer got it automatically, that was the final blow. From that day forward developers focused on MS applications (Apps in todays jargon) many of which would be hard coded for MS.
    I still occasionally run across stuff which will not run on any browser other than IE.
    Opera was just overwhelmed by the numbers, like the defenders of the Alamo were.



  • @whturner:

    … I disagree that that presto was the main problem - Netscape and MS explorer had as many bugs.
    The problem was mainly Microsoft - You could get a free browser from Microsoft, and Opera tried initially to market Opera rather than providing it free. No contest! Netscape could not compete either. Further, when Microsoft included it in the operating system so all PC customer got it automatically, that was the final blow. ... Opera was just overwhelmed by the numbers ...

    But there had to be more to it than just that. In that same post-Netscape era, Firefox and Chrome both "came out of nowhere" to compete head-on with MS and its Internet Explorer, and the web designers moved to accommodate their browsers… yet they didn't move nearly as far to accommodate Opera. I'm convinced the key reason Opera failed to hit mass-markets was because Opera never really marketed itself in that direction, either by intention or by error. During that era, I moved from IE to Opera only by word-of-mouth from other techno-users; at the same time, I saw banners, recommendations, and links to Firefox on half the sites I visited, followed not long thereafter by similar pushes for Chrome. That never happened with Opera.

    Once the market finally devolved into the big three browsers (IE, Chrome, FF), it was too late for Opera with its unique Presto engine to hope to break into the big time with site designers, even if it had then marketed itself more broadly. Opera had the user customization, built-ins, and everything else - but it continually had to do battle over website compatibility. At the same time, updating the Presto rendering engine to fast-evolving web standards was consuming ever more resources - and if Presto weren't continually updated, website incompatibility would quickly grow even worse. As a small-ish company, the overhead of maintaining the Presto engine alone was eating Opera alive.

    I have no problem with a browser not attaining mass-market adoption, nor do I think as a business that presents an insurmountable "success" problem. But I do believe it courts disaster if a browser company elects to stay small but also attempts to employ a unique web-facing rendering engine that can/will lead to website incompatibility - the browser company simply lacks the necessary market-presence horsepower to get the site designers to consistently code for the quirks of its unique engine. On the other hand, by adopting a "standard" engine already compatible with websites, the browser company is freed to concentrate on putting user-focused features and controls into the browser that will assure its adoption among those demanding such things. This is what I believe Vivaldi is trying to do.



  • I paid for my first version of Opera. It was great following the innovations they delivered. It made me totally biased in how I interfaced with the world wide web. I was crushed when OpNext appeared & my notes, bookmarks & email evaporated. A good tool is always appreciated by those who like working with superior tools. I feel Vivaldi is building up to that level.


  • Moderator

    @RRR13:

    Firefox maybe kinda came from nowhere, but Chrome did not. Chrome had a HUGE constant push from Google.

    Firefox came from anywhere BUT nowhere. it inherited the Netscape engine and all of the Netscape users, who were legion because among early desktop browsers, Netscape was the default on most new retail machines.



  • @Ayespy:

    @RRR13:

    Firefox maybe kinda came from nowhere, but Chrome did not. Chrome had a HUGE constant push from Google.

    Firefox came from anywhere BUT nowhere. it inherited the Netscape engine and all of the Netscape users, who were legion because among early desktop browsers, Netscape was the default on most new retail machines.

    I guess I have to disagree a bit with that. I was heavily using first Phoenix and then FireBird before it finally morphed into FireFox, and at that time the usage community was anything but large. It grew very quickly during/after that first Firefox year, in part because of the movement from Netscape as that browser instantiation was imploding before and during the AOL ownership. Just after the Firebird name changed to Firefox, the ads and banners for Firefox began exploding all over places on the web, and FF's usage exploded as well. Certainly, some of that came from user migration from Netscape - but Netscape remained as a "name" for some time after Firefox appeared, so that migration was a process rather than instantaneous. During the rise of Firefox, I learned about Opera and moved in that direction because of the configurability and especially the speed of that browser vs. early Firefox. From my perspective, Opera always remained a road much less advertised, with a user market share to match, though I truly loved it… whereas Mozilla truly appeared to me to explode from "nowhere" in user market share, statistically speaking. I believe that was due entirely to its marketing and the burgeoning anti-IE attitudes prevalent at the time.

    @RRR, I certainly believe Chrome also statistically came out of nowhere simply on the back of massive marketing, which was the point I was making. It simply did not exist in users' minds prior to late 2008, and its user share was zero. If not for its mega-marketing, I frankly don't believe the recent phases of the browser wars would have unfolded as they have.

    If Opera was still being maintained as it was through the 11.x versions, I would probably still be using it... and perhaps Vivaldi wouldn't even exist. I'm not a worshiper of market share, but instead value a browser for it's configurabilty, feature set, and speed - in that order. My original comment to @whturner was to refute the dual contentions that Presto wasn't a major problem for Opera ASA and that Microsoft overwhelmed it and was to blame for what later unfolded. What I didn't fully explain there was that a lack of marketing doomed Opera to a minority browser status, which while that isn't a problem by itself, meant they couldn't afford the continuing overhead of both developing new features in a custom user interface and keeping an independent custom rendering engine alive and compatible with uncooperative web sites. So, ironically, Opera both dumped the custom Presto engine to save money and abandoned the power users in a pursuit of the mass market. But without the necessary major marketing (which I've not yet seen any sign), I believe that move is destined to fail as they both continue to lose disaffected power users and fail to break away signficant numbers of "mass" users from Chrome's share.

    If Vivaldi can carve out a profitable business catering to power users without dominating the market-share stats, I'll be more than happy... because I believe that to dominate market shares results in necessarily mass-user-focusing a browser to the point where it no longer functions for power users. But in the current realities of the browser business, I don't believe a company can both be content with a small minority market-share and cover the overhead needed to maintain a site-compatible custom rendering engine... they'll starve themselves out in the process.


  • Moderator

    As a prior Netscape addict who continued to follow it after its "demise," I stick by my characterization of what came about. For those Netscape users who had not adopted a boutique browser prior to its implosion, Mozilla/Firefox was the only visible sanctuary to flee to, if they were determined to remain aficionados of "Not IE."

    Read:

    http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/Firefox-rises-from-ashes-of-abandoned-Netscape-3229083.php



  • @Ayespy:

    As a prior Netscape addict who continued to follow it after its "demise," I stick by my characterization of what came about. For those Netscape users who had not adopted a boutique browser prior to its implosion, Mozilla/Firefox was the only visible sanctuary to flee to, if they were determined to remain aficionados of "Not IE."

    Read:

    http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/Firefox-rises-from-ashes-of-abandoned-Netscape-3229083.php

    From the article:

    With the clear authority to improve the free code , and the need to make the project self-supporting before the cash ran out, the Mozilla group re-branded the browser. After two false starts - Eich says two early names, Phoenix and Firebird, ran into trademark conflicts - the group settled on Firefox.
    This renamed and revised Netscape heir started to gain in popularity, partly because it premiered at a time when many Web developers and consumers were becoming disenchanted with Internet Explorer.

    This is what I refer to as "coming from nowhere". Firefox didn't abruptly inherit Netscape's share as in a renaming process, the move was gradual. My original point was simply that Microsoft didn't stiffle Opera merely because Opera was "coming from nowhere" and was too small to compete. Firefox and Chrome both came from a similar point and succeeded in massing market share, but they did so because they both marketed themselves profusely and successfully; Opera chose not to do that, thereby setting in motion the problem of maintaining and assuring site compatibility of an entire browser without the returns of a major market share.


  • Moderator

    Well, there was specific knowledge in and around the user community that "FIrefox is the improved version of the Netscape you used to know and love." This made its promotion much more potent. Even when IE had seized majority market share, the VAST MAJORITY of those users were prior Netscape users. When Firefox made the scene, curiosity, if nothing else (to say nothing of pop-up hell) brought millions of those users back to Moz. Opera had no such advantage. From its inception, it was never a/the dominant browser, and lacked name recognition. I felt exceedingly lucky to find it.

    Now as to Firefox's promotion, being sent off the launch pad with a fully developed browser and a couple million bux didn't hurt their ability to do that, ONE BIT. Without the Netscape legacy, and AOL's "get lost" package, there are no known market influences which could explain their rise.

    I'm not so much trying to argue that you are wrong, as to inform the discussion as someone who adhered to Gecko/Mozilla from way back in 1994, and who, therefore, can't understand the concept that what has always been, and what used to dominate the market, "came from nowhere." That's all. I think millions of people in my shoes never found Opera, and so jumped to FireFox due their pre-existing sense of comfort with the Netscape legacy, and the absence of any other port in the pop-up storm.

    There was one other thing: Community. We loved Netscape and its community back in the dusty reaches of antiquity. When AOL took over, they closed the Netscape Forums, and most of us did not move to AOL groups. The majority of us fled. One of the reasons we loved Netscape was because it was not the walled garden of AOL. In fact, most of us despised AOL and ridiculed its users as clueless grandmas and halfwits. With the death of the Netscape community, some of us even gathered together in lifeboats (a group of us called ourselves the NetNomads) to preserve our discussion groups on free or cheap forum sites, or jumped to closed groups like The Well and Electric Minds. One of our number even founded the NetNomads internet cafe in Maplewood, NJ and hosted our group on her server there. When the source code was liberated from the AOL prison and erupted as FireFox, a ton of people who considered themselves Netscape refugees came flooding back. If you were never a part of this social network, I could see how FireFox's popularity would seem to come from nowhere. But all it was, was pent-up demand.



  • @Ayespy:

    Well, there was specific knowledge in and around the user community that "FIrefox is the improved version of the Netscape you used to know and love." This made its promotion much more potent. Even when IE had seized majority market share, the VAST MAJORITY of those users were prior Netscape users. When Firefox made the scene, curiosity, if nothing else (to say nothing of pop-up hell) brought millions of those users back to Moz. Opera had no such advantage. From its inception, it was never a/the dominant browser, and lacked name recognition. I felt exceedingly lucky to find it.

    Now as to Firefox's promotion, being sent off the launch pad with a fully developed browser and a couple million bux didn't hurt their ability to do that, ONE BIT. Without the Netscape legacy, and AOL's "get lost" package, there are no known market influences which could explain their rise.

    I'm not so much trying to argue that you are wrong, as to inform the discussion as someone who adhered to Gecko/Mozilla from way back in 1994, and who, therefore, can't understand the concept that what has always been, and what used to dominate the market, "came from nowhere." That's all. I think millions of people in my shoes never found Opera, and so jumped to FireFox due their pre-existing sense of comfort with the Netscape legacy, and the absence of any other port in the pop-up storm.

    There was one other thing: Community. We loved Netscape and its community back in the dusty reaches of antiquity. When AOL took over, they closed the Netscape Forums, and most of us did not move to AOL groups. The majority of us fled. One of the reasons we loved Netscape was because it was not the walled garden of AOL. In fact, most of us despised AOL and ridiculed its users as clueless grandmas and halfwits. With the death of the Netscape community, some of us even gathered together in lifeboats (a group of us called ourselves the NetNomads) to preserve our discussion groups on free or cheap forum sites, or jumped to closed groups like The Well and Electric Minds. One of our number even founded the NetNomads internet cafe in Maplewood, NJ and hosted our group on her server there. When the source code was liberated from the AOL prison and erupted as FireFox, a ton of people who considered themselves Netscape refugees came flooding back. If you were never a part of this social network, I could see how FireFox's popularity would seem to come from nowhere. But all it was, was pent-up demand.

    This is interesting stuff. Are their more in-depth histories of Netscape's "government-in-exile" prior to the rise of Firefox? If not there should be.



  • @Ayespy:

    Well, there was specific knowledge in and around the user community that "FIrefox is the improved version of the Netscape you used to know and love." This made its promotion much more potent.

    You got that wrong.

    The AOL company made the same error as Opera ASA: They dropped the old code base and started rebuilding Netscape (itself) from scratch. It took too long (3 years) and they lost all users. Some of them to Opera. When Netscape 6.0 was ready, the world had already moved on. The new Netscape (Mozilla suite) was slow and bulky, compared to the old one and especially compared to Opera. So even as a Netscape user I didn't look back at that completely failed project, I already switched to Opera.

    Firefox came around years later as being a simplified Mozilla together with an marketing campaign to non-power-users (basically the Chrome concept). It was still slow, but meanwhile hardware caught up and it was bearable (still 3 times the footprint of Opera with much less functionality). It then became popular as it copied useful features from Opera (like tabbed browsing), for introducing extensions and of course for being open source. But already having Opera I never saw a reason to switch to the new Firefox.



  • My first browser was Mosaic - which Microsoft used as at least part of their code base until fairly recently. Does anyone know if they still are?



  • @whturner:

    My first browser was Mosaic - which Microsoft used as at least part of their code base until fairly recently. Does anyone know if they still are?

    Microsoft supposedly audited IE7 to assure there was no Mosaic code in it any longer, so that it could drop the licensing fees paid to Spyglass or any other Mosaic heirs.


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