Vakkotaur (vakkotaur) wrote,

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Vivaldi and Opera

Way back, in the days of Windows 3.x and Windows 95 when Netscape ruled the web and there was an upstart called Internet Explorer that was dubious at best (and has been dubious ever since....), I saw someone somewhere recommend a small, new web browser called Opera. It was so small the installer fit on a (3.5 inch) floppy and it had a great feature: You could tell it to NOT play those annoying animated GIFs. That was enough that I installed it, and since it wasn't free[1] and I liked it that much, I paid for it so I could keep using beyond the trial period. I kept up with updates and paid for them, too, as more features (offering ever greater user control) were added. Eventually Opera changed its scheme to allow the browser to be free. Opera also had a neat community setup and actually listened to its users. There were a couple times I submitted bug reports and got email in reply beyond the "submitted successfully" notice. At least once it even offered a fix or at least a tolerable work-around.

And then it seemed it all fell apart. The original team, or enough of it, left or were pushed out and it felt like the marketing department took over and drove the engineering types out. This a Bad Thing.[2] A complete rebuild was decided upon - but not just the core, the user interface as well, and away went the features that made Opera so great and, well, Opera. Support for Linux vaporized as well, but this was no big deal as the new versions weren't worth running anyway. So I've been running an older version as it's the newest thing available. Yes, I tried other browsers. Despite being newer (and often copying the good Opera's features, right Firefox?) or having a similar look but not the stability (SlimBoat...) they all seemed terrible clunky and didn't offer the fine control I'd become used to having.

But there is now hope. It's not a new version of Opera. I have that on my phone, and I can see while it's not as bad as it had been, it's not the real inheritor of the Opera experience. No, it's that the group that for whatever reason left Opera has come out with a new browser, Vivaldi. It also isn't "ready for prime time" but they are admitting it isn't and calling the first big announcement a Technical Preview (which is NOT a stable release) and offering weekly snapshot builds - with warnings that those snapshots are apt to have regressions ("We thought we fixed that..."). This is the blatant honesty of the old, original, good, Opera.

Vivaldi currently lacks many features. One is that I have no control to disable animations, or plugins, or allow them to run on some pages but not on others so the web looks weirdly spammy to me with Vivaldi - for now. The truly fine user-control isn't there... yet. There is no mail client (something many have come to expect). Of course there also isn't nonsense like an IRC client (what the heck is that doing in any browser?) The 'Speed Dial' size (screen layout, not number of links) isn't adjustable - I find it too big and nesting things in folders, while a neat idea, defeats the point of having a Speed Dial setup - speed!

I am still using the old version of Opera, but I am keeping Vivaldi around and keeping an eye on it. One thing the Vivaldi team is getting right is that much of the user interface acts as I expect it should (e.g. middle-clicking a link opens it in a new tab - in the background). Another is that they are starting out making Vivaldi multi-platform. I'm not on Linux waiting them to get around to making a Linux version. There's no Windows-only BS from these guys.

I suspect the marketroids that took over Opera are in for one HELL of nasty - and damned well deserved - surprise when Vivaldi approaches the old Opera's abilities and the new Opera's market share and mindshare vaporizes faster than a criticality event. I suspect I'll be wishing for Vivaldi for Android within a year's time.

[1] In the monetary sense, which is what people think when they hear/see 'free' despite silly GNU/ista nonsense.
[2] Dilbert is a documentary. It's not funny in the "Ha-ha!" sense so much as the "Yeah, been there." sense.

Tags: browser, computers, opera, vivaldi, web browser
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