The composer, the musical, and the fox

The Vivaldi browser is an interesting project. It hearkens back to the early days of Opera Browser, when they still used the Presto rendering engine. Opera used to pack in a lot of features, like RSS reader, email, chat, and the first browser to use tabs instead of having to open a new window for each page opened.

My college roommate turned me on to Opera. Back then, you had a limited amount of uses before you had to pay to unlock the full version of the software.

One day, I was going to buy it for my own use. I loved the program. It was fast and I liked the idea of having one program that did so many things well. Right about that time, Opera went fully free to use, and I was ecstatic.

It wasn’t all puppies and rainbows though. I remember how not every page was optimized for Opera. I had to keep other browsers around, in case pages didn’t render properly (I remember something called Mozilla… I wonder whatever happened to them…).

I remember how tabs and the address bar were at the bottom of the screen and how it felt cool and a little elite to have such a different interface than most people used.

But, like all good things, this came to an end. Opera evolved, got a new rendering engine, dropped features, add some new ones, and changed hands. I still use it, I still like it, though I keep my eyes open for signs of data misuse. Manjaro, my current Linux distribution of choice, still has it in it’s software repo, so I trust it isn’t too insecure. I boost it with privacy extensions and avoid their VPN/proxy servers.

Their mobile browser is hard to beat though, for speed, ad blocking, and ability to connect to Facebook’s messenger site (he said in the same breath, after talking about privacy extensions, aware of the irony…).

Vivaldi tries to bring back some of the same magic that Opera once had. It adds a lot of features to the browser that are usually only duplicated with extensions. Many browsers have a reader mode (get with the program Opera!), but this also has tab stacking (combining several tabs into one group), the ability to dive deep into your browsing history, side panels for opening web pages, tab tiling for viewing multiple pages at once, etc…

Vivaldi has a strong social media and blog presence, providing a lot of information and insight about how the program is developed, showcasing interesting new features (want to change the color of your browser tabs or lights in your room or on your keyboard or mouse?..), and providing frequent snapshots of new versions. This is all cool and keeps the community energized.

Is it, then, the perfect browser for me? Well… not quiet.

If have mixed feelings about the Chromium engine that Vivaldi is built on. I remember the old days of the web, when Internet Explorer (IE) was king, and web standards didn’t feel like the standard. I remember when sites were built around IE and not the other way around. I’ve read about the security of IE and how it didn’t always keep up with holes and flaws (though there were less people trying and the stakes weren’t quite as high with personal data as they are today, I believe).

I’m concerned with one engine having too much sway over how the internet is viewed and accessed. I’m concerned with the sheer clout that Google has over the web and that they are more interested in our data instead of our privacy. I’m worried that Google has so much control over Chromium that they can dictate how the web will work. A few months ago, they said they’d change APIs and that would alter how ad blockers work. Is this a swipe at ad blockers themselves, which can reduce how much data is absorbed, or is there valid security concerns with how things run now? I’m not well-versed enough in computer and internet security and software to know for sure, but it is curious.

I also notice that Chromium-based browsers don’t render fonts nearly as well as Firefox does. Text looks fuzzier in Vivaldi. It’s harder to read, so I find myself using Firefox more. Firefox also has the ability to keep sites like Facebook in a container, so it can’t interact with other sites and suck up even more information about my browsing habits and interests. This is a nice feature, one that is important to me, that other browsers don’t currently have.

This brings me to mobile browsing. As I said earlier, Opera does the basics well. It runs fast on my Android phone (I wish there were more mobile operating system alternatives available…), blocks ads, and lets me utilize features on Facebook’s site that other browsers can’t or won’t. Firefox Focus works well if I don’t care about saving my results, but it’s really bare bones. Firefox Mobile lets me add extensions to protect my privacy, but it’s slow and not as responsive as other browsers. Vivaldi…

We’ve been waiting a while for Vivaldi’s mobile offering. I’d have loved to see some screen shots posted to see how the project is progressing. I understand wanting to do the project right before releasing it to the public, especially a piece of software as important security-wise as a browser, but it’s been in development and been promised for years now. It’ll be nice when it’s finally released. I’m a little disappointed to hear that it won’t be able to block advertising. I don’t have a lot of mobile data when I’m away from my home’s Wi-Fi and I know there are ads out there that are less scrupulous about skimming data. I hope there are some decent privacy options embedded in Vivaldi Mobile. I also hope I’ll be able to access FB messenger via the website, otherwise I might be sticking with Opera.

The other thing I’ve been waiting on is Vivaldi’s email client. I miss having Opera with a built-in client, like the old days. It was convenient to have one program running, and I liked how I could check all of my inboxes with one window. I hope it has RSS capabilities as well, as I find those handy for reading web comics and blogs. I also wish we could have seen some screenshots during development, to get an idea of how it has evolved.

It’s hard not to be a little disappointed with how long it has taken Vivaldi to develop and release these features. I know we’re essentially getting these for free and really have no right to complain. It’s more like that feeling you got, as a kid, of waiting for Christmas to come. There will be presents in the future, but it’s just so far off… At least with Christmas, you knew the date it would get here.

Do I believe that Vivaldi is interested in protecting user security and privacy? Absolutely. Is it 100% perfect? No browser is. Will I still also use Firefox and Opera? Yup. I like Opera because it’s fast and seems to be interested in privacy and security (though I’m keeping one eye open for news otherwise). Mozilla’s focus seems to be on privacy, despite some boneheaded mistakes (just look up their Mr. Robot kerfuffle and the recent security certificate issue, part two).

I would like it if Vivaldi could improve their font rendering to be crisper, less smudgy. I would like it if pages remembered where they were when I closed the browser (this seems to be a somewhat unique problem for me). I wish it wasn’t based on Chromium. But I still really like it and will continue to use it. But I’ll keep using other browsers two. I just have to accept that about myself.

TLDR (I’m half tempted to put this at the top from now on…)

I really like Vivaldi. I love the old school Opera feel. BUT, I’m getting antsy waiting for the rest of the toys (mobile browsing and email client) to finally get here. I’m still going to spend a lot of time with Firefox (for that font crispness I don’t get from Chromium and for the privacy settings).

Roaming the open (source) plains

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on Vivaldi’s mobile browser and email client. If you haven’t guessed already, I like to have alternatives to tinker with.

I like to support Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) like Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird programs. I think it’s important to have access to programs base code, so that people (far more knowledgeable than me about programming) can look through the code and look for security holes and to make sure companies aren’t exploiting user data.

The fact that they’re free doesn’t hurt any either. I’m not made of money, after all…

It’s nice to know that there are alternatives to mainstream software out there and that people love the projects enough that they’re willing to spend time and effort into making them better. I think it also helps keep proprietary software in check somewhat. If a free alternative can do the same or similar job as an expensive piece of technology, it makes it easier for more users to create and distribute their own work. It may also help keep prices for proprietary works lower (though I’m no sure how effective that is as a whole).

That’s not to say that I won’t use proprietary software. I love me some video games. I also understand that companies want to be compensated for their hard work and time spent in research and development.

What does this have to do with my original statement?

Well, Vivaldi seems to live in both worlds a little. Source code for much of the browser is based on Chromium (which is open source) and is available online (older versions, it loks like, are available here

I’m okay with not every scrap of code being available to look through. I wouldn’t know what to do with it all if I had access to it anyway. I was trained as a chemist and educator, not a computer scientist.

Firefox runs really well on desktop and… it runs on Android. I installed an extension that will allow me to fake my user agent to see if that speeds things up any. So I’m definitely excited about a new candidate as my primary mobile browser. I’m a little concerned that I’ll be bombarded with advertising though, as it’s been reported that there will not be an ad-blocker available (

On mobile, it’s not just about tracking, but page loading speed and not using so much mobile data. I’d also love to be able to log into Facebook Messenger through their mobile site. Right now, the only browser that lets me do that is Opera Mobile. The only work arounds I’ve found are to load the desktop page (the text is too small to be useful) or to log into their really basic mobile page, designed for feature phones ( if you’re curious).

I’m trying to stay clear of downloading a ton of apps.

For the email client, I’ve been happy enough with Thunderbird, but I’d love to see an email client built into the browser, like Opera’s earlier browsers (version 12 and earlier) or Seamonkey (which doesn’t update all that frequently anymore). It would be really nice if all of my login information and accounts were synced up. That would save me a ton of time when I distrohop.

Do I wish that Vivaldi was open source?… Maybe a little bit. Is that going to stop me from using it?… No, not really. But I will continue to bounce back and forth between Vivaldi and Firefox for the time being.

Especially until Vivaldi is still working on their mobile browser and email clients.

My scattered thoughts on web browsers

I have a tendency to research subjects to death… then well past the point of death. I have some difficulty making a final, lasting decision at times.

This definitely includes deciding on a default web browser.

I bounce back and forth, like a ping pong ball in a championship match.

In one sense, that means I’m familiar with a wide variety of programs and can adapt to new browsers quickly. I can quickly set just about any browser up to do what I want it to do in a short amount of time.

I’d like to go through my thoughts on a variety of browsers, just to collect my thoughts and perhaps work out some issues for myself. If this happens to be helpful to anyone else, then that is awesome! I don’t expect this to reach a large audience, and that’s okay too!

Please note: this is not a be-all-end-all kind of technical review. This is about feelings. Nothing more than feelings. Musings of a browser enthusiast (snob?), if you will.


Let’s start with the most obvious browser (considering where this is being posted…), Vivaldi. Vivaldi picks up where Opera left off. It packs a whole lot of features into one package and has promised more to come. I’m jonesing to try their email client and mobile browsers (both are yet to be released as of this post). It’s fast, the built-in reader mode is a huge help, it’s got access to the Google Chrome web app store, it’s customizable, and the community is great. It’s hard not to get excited as I read through community posts. The keyboard commands are helpful, and I love the speed dial (also found in Opera) and mouse gestures (ditto in Opera). It’s based on Chromium and the snapshot usually updates to new versions within a few days, tops.

However, there’s some room to grow. Syncing between browsers isn’t always 100% reliable. There are times when I can’t access the syncing server(s?). Not usually an issue though.

Font rendering leaves something to be desired, but that’s more a flaw with the Chromium base than with Vivaldi. Still, fonts are thin and aren’t as easy to read without an extension, adjusting the zoom, or tweaking the settings.

The built-in PDF reader could allow you to enter in a page number and zip right to it, like most other browsers. There are no arrows to skip to the next or previous page. It’s functional, but basic.

It’s not the most stable on my Manjaro laptop, but it works well on my  Windows 10 machines. There are visual glitches and Pocket doesn’t work properly on my Linux machine.

In short, I really like it, but there are some improvements that will doubtlessly be polished in the (near?) future. I’ll use it, but not as my primary.


You can’t talk about browsers without bringing the big boy into the discussion. It’s stable, it’s secure, and it’s just about everywhere… accept in my regular rotation.

Don’t get me wrong, I do use it. I load it down with some security extensions (like I do with every browser I can), and I tweak the privacy settings (though they could be tighter; I’m okay with some usability options over strict security). I check the options and try and protect privacy to what I consider to be a reasonable level.

It’s solid, and I do sometimes boot it up to play with it. I do often use it when I’m on a computer to do presentations, especially since I can so quickly and easily access my synced data.

It just doesn’t excite me much.

Also, I can get a decent level of security on Windows and Linux (and the settings sync across all of those machines, score!), but privacy on the mobile browser is a bit of a joke. I’ll occasionally check the mobile site with, just to see how porous the browser’s privacy is (like a sieve without strict settings).

I understand that, as a free program that Google gets theirs by collecting my data, so I try and make it more difficult for them (though not restrictively so). But if I need something to work, I’ll use it.

I just wish the fonts were easier to read without tweaking.


I have a long history with Opera. I used it back before they dropped Presto (which I don’t blame them for) in favor of Blink then Chromium. I still like it and still use it.

Mobile browsing with Opera Mobile on Android is fantastic. It’s fast, it’s got a built-in ad blocker, I can still access Facebook’s Messenger features without using the dumbed down site (the only browser to still let me do so), and gets pretty good results on Panopticlick. It syncs between devices, it’s got some cool features that are starting to be picked up by other companies, and I really like the newsfeed that collects headlines.

It’s a Norwegian company owned by a Chinese firm, so there was some soul searching to decide if I’d still use it. I’ve decided to trust it, though, like a strange dog, I still keep my eyes on it, just in case.

I wish I had more options for customizing the appearance, like I have with Vivaldi. Otherwise though, I don’t have any major complaints. I do use a font adjusting extension, to make it easier to read, and I wish that there was a built-in reader mode, but there are extensions that work well enough. I just wish it was a native feature.

There aren’t any major complaints, just little, niggling things. Checking whether or not there is a more recent upgrade within Opera is… unreliable. Sometimes I’ll have to reload the window several times in order for it to sync with their servers. It looks fine, but it doesn’t excite, like it used to with Presto. They dropped mail and RSS readers (which I totally get). I can’t get the Linux version to stream services like Netflix due to an issue with Widevine, but I can still load Vivaldi, Firefox, or Chrome (though on Manjaro it’s Vivaldi OR Chrome). It’s mostly closed source.

It’s just… fine. It’s safe, it’s a good, solid alternative, it’s fine.

I’m just not as excited by it as I used to be.


This takes me to another (relatively) new kid on the block, Brave. It’s still in beta, and has quite a bit of room to grow. They tout a built-in ad blocker and security suite and they’re working on a system that bypasses the traditional advertising system online with a new system that will send a curated selection of ads to your system (only if enabled!) that will pay you to view. You can then spend some of that money on sites that you feel deserve to be paid for their content. Their adverts are not supposed to be based on information mined from your online profiles, but may someday (I hope anyway, after testing them in beta) be adjusted based on interest of the reader. I’d like to say that yes, I’m interested in local grocery stores and I’m not interested in, say, sports betting. But you’ll be able to turn the feature on and off.

Right now, Brave is going through a transition, from a Muon-based theme to pure Chromium. As of this date, it looks much closer to basic Chrome/Chromium (the opensource version of Chrome, with most of the bells, some of the whistles). However, it also opened it up to the Chromium web app store (which may end up a curated Brave app store in the near future).

It’s fast, it’s secure (on desktop/laptop…), it’s opensource, and it’s got some growing to do. Only in this last update did we get a PDF reader that seems to work on every (the ones I care about at least) sites than before.

It’s also got the Chromium font problem I’ve brought up a few times.

There are mobile versions, but right now, based on the Panopticlick results, it’s pretty porous. Nearly as bad as Chrome. I’m going to look further at tightening up security and privacy settings by default, since the mobile browser can’t (as of now) install web extensions that might fix some of the issues.

It’s promising, and I’m excited about it as well, but it’s not there quite yet.


This leaves me with the one non-Chromium browser on my list. I’d also talk about Seamonkey, but so little progress has been made on that browser that I don’t use it regularly any more (such a pity as I love the suite of software).

Firefox has the best font rendering out of the lot of regular browsers I use. It’s faster than it used to be, has finally caught up to multiple processes instead of one, making it more secure. Has a good focus on privacy, including segregating Facebook into containers, if you download the right extension. Reader mode is excellent. Memory use is pretty good, on par with the other browsers I use.

I also like that it isn’t yet another Chromium browser. There needs to be other options online. We didn’t have decent competition at various points in the past. Internet Explorer (may it rest in peace) was THE dominant browser for a long time. Web progress stagnated a bit. Netscape came along and took over. Web progress slowed again. Now, with so many browsers being run on Chromium, the risk is that things will creep along again instead of innovate. Or if there is a problem with Chromium itself, that there may not be a viable alternative for users.

And here’s the problem… I do like Firefox. A lot. It works well. It reads well. It looks… bland, but it reads and works well.

Mobile browsing works… well enough. It’s not the most responsive browser, but it lets me install extensions that tighten privacy, block advertising, and make life a little easier online. But it’s so… slow… sometimes… But I can work around it, and it’s perfectly fine on my phone and tablet.

There’s also Firefox Focus on mobile platforms that runs quite well. It’s faster, focused on privacy, and is secure and private. It also deletes everything you do when you close it. Burn after reading. Cool, if I don’t want to have to log back into sites every time.

The thing is, Firefox doesn’t excite me. I use it out of a feeling of obligation, the fact it runs the best on my Linux machine (synced data for the win! I love sending pages to other devices for reading later!). I like Mozilla’s message of privacy and information security.

However, Firefox seems to be a better privacy platform and a worse security platform than Chrome. Chrome routinely does well against attacks at Pwn2Own. Rarely do attacks make it through. That’s awesome! Firefox usually gets hacked at least once (and pulled out for a year or two to get their stuff together).

I also use it because I’m getting old and my poor eyes need more help than they used to.

That’s not a ringing endorsement; it works and reads well, but… meh?


I read a lot about browsers. I can’t tell if I really enjoy it or I just feel compelled to be as knowledgeable as I can about security, privacy, and functionality.

Opera is great. I love it like a comfortable pair of jeans or shoes. It’s comfortable and familar… but it’s too familiar?

Vivaldi is fantastic and I’m excited about the future. I’m just working through the present to get there. I want to use it and test it, but I’d like it to work at peak everywhere I use it.

Firefox is good. Very good. But I use it because I feel like someone should use it.

Chrome is good, but it’s not for me on mobile.

Ditto for Brave.

If you have any constructive thoughts or questions, please leave a comment! I’d love to know that I’m not the only one this obsessed with the subject matter.