An Interview With Vivaldi Browser’s CEO Jon S. von Tetzchner
Mohd: Why did you leave Opera and build another web browser, Vivaldi?
Jon: We had faced a difficult situation for about 7 years with the investors at Opera. Some of them did not believe in the company and to set up the company for sale was always on their mind. I had my disagreements as I have always believed that the right thing is to focus on building great products and a great company. After 7 years of fighting, I was exhausted and decided to give others the chance to run the company, hoping it would allow the company to continue growing. Sadly, I was wrong and the company is now sold or at least the browser part to a Chinese conglomerate.
Opera changed direction after I left the company. Not only as a company but also on the product side. Instead of building feature rich products based on user feedback, Opera started building limited products. This left a lot of users unhappy, users that had supported us for years. We felt the need to provide for those users and all those that want a user centric browser, so we started working on Vivaldi.
Mohd: How are you going to compete with giants in the industry such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Chromium? What are your plans?
Jon: We’re offering something quite different. The others are moving in the same direction and limiting functionality. Vendors want the browser itself to disappear so you’re just left with the content. Features are often removed if a small percentage use it—but that can still affect millions of people.
Our approach is to give users what they want. We provide a lot of options so Vivaldi can adapt to their way of working.
We don’t have the distribution means of the others. You can get Edge, Safari or Firefox with your operating system. Google has the power to push Chrome everywhere. We have to win people by the quality of our software and the features we offer.
Mohd: I read a thread here where people requested to open source Vivaldi and after that, you made it open source. So under what license is it? Are we supposed to get any Vivaldi fork now?
Jon: Vivaldi is not open source in the legal sense of the term and is not licensed under any of the open source licenses like GPL or MIT. However, most of Vivaldi´s source code is open and available. People are already modifying parts of it. Specifically, we aim to make it easier for people to modify the web based user interface by making as much of its source code available as possible. Right now, we are not looking at creating any Vivaldi forks.
Mohd: At the moment I can see there are a lot of visual changes in the browser. Actually, Vivaldi is one of the most beautiful browsers. But still, it misses a lot of advanced features such as Sync that we have in almost all modern web browsers.
Jon: Thank you and I am happy that Vivaldi impresses you. We have put in a lot of effort on the visual side of the browser and give attention to detail. We are working on Sync currently and are testing it internally and the plan is to release it very soon.
Mohd: Besides Vivaldi what else do you do? Are there other products?
Jon: Our focus is Vivaldi. We are clearly trying to re-define what a browser is. Evidently, the focus of the browser is to browse the Internet and we provide all the tools you need to be able to do that quickly, efficiently and pleasurably as well. We also give a lot of attention to our community, Vivaldi.net which is looking at an overhaul now. It is a free service, open-access with no special requirements for you to join.
Mohd: Currently, most Linux distributions ship Firefox or have it in the default repositories. Linux is mostly used by power users (Your target audience). Do you have any plan for Vivaldi shipping with any Linux distribution?
Jon: We are certainly very popular among Linux users. And we are included on popular Linux distributions like Antergos, Esculeas and even Arch. Replacing Firefox as the default browser on Linux is a challenge, but we are working on it.
Mohd: How many members are there in the team? And where is the Vivaldi head office?
Jon: As of now, we are a team of 38 members. Our head office is in Oslo, Norway. We are a distributed team where most of our team works from Oslo with some of the members based out of Iceland and the U.S.
Mohd: How do you earn from a web browser to keep it active?
Jon: The browser is provided for free. However, we generate revenues from the included search partners and some of the bookmarks. All our deals are revenue share, so we focus on selecting partners that our users want.
Mohd: What is the next big feature we’re going to see in Vivaldi?
Jon: We will continue to develop the browser. More features, more options, more individual design. It is what our users want and what they want is what we want as well. Work is happening on Sync on high priority. Clearly, mail is the next big thing that has already been announced, but there is a lot more coming soon 🙂