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

I remember those days because I am still living in them, thanks to a web browser you might not have heard of: Vivaldi. 

This week, the team behind the Vivaldi web browser released version 4.0, which seems like an appropriate time for me to tell you that you need to try it out. To riff off Neil Stephenson, Vivaldi outshines all other web browsers “in approximately the same way that the noonday sun does the stars … it is not just bigger and brighter; it simply makes everything else vanish.”

Customization Is Key

Stephenson was actually talking about the text editor Emacs, whose never-ending recursiveness makes it the programmer’s 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 a stretch to say that Vivaldi is the Emacs of web browsers.

Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner was also the cofounder of Opera, one of the earliest web browsers to have features like pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing. The level of customization and power-user features that set Opera apart are present today in Vivaldi as well, along with plenty more.

At first glance, Vivaldi looks like a slightly more colorful version of your average web browser—mirroring the colors of the webpage is a notable Vivaldi feature that Apple shamelessly copied in Safari. It’s not until you dig into Vivaldi’s settings that you discover its true power: The ability to tailor your browsing experience exactly the way you want it.

Like Emacs, everyone’s Vivaldi setup and experience may be different, and that’s the point. Vivaldi’s tag line 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 is on the web to do work and stay in touch with your friends, rather than consume 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 the customizable keyboard shortcuts and ignore the mouse gestures, and everyone wins. Vivaldi 4.0 acknowledges this with a new dialog offering some feature presets: Essentials, Classic, or my favorite, Fully Loaded.

Screenshot of Vivaldi Homepage
Scott Gilbertson via Vivaldi