Vivaldi isn’t alone. The Russian firm Yandex is developing a new browser, and Microsoft is releasing one called Edge, which will eventually replace Internet Explorer. All told, this ferment has created a curious moment: The desktop browser is once again hot.
At first glance, this makes no sense. Global growth in Internet usage is all mobile, right? So it seems counterproductive for any developer to cast their lot with the old-school, plodding, desktop browser. We’ve got Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer. Isn’t desktop web surfing solved?
It isn’t. One problem with the modern pantheon of browsers, from von Tetzchner’s perspective, is that they’ve become too mainstream and thus too cautious and conservative. They’ve focused on the vast majority of Internet users who, studies show, use only a handful of tabs at a time. This has for years left power users underserved. “I am salivating over Vivaldi,” says one of my fellow enthusiasts, a private investigator. (Opera, founded in the ’90s by von Tetzchner himself, was the lone browser that cultivated power users. But in 2011 he left the company and management killed off most of Opera’s hardcore features.) While early adopters may be a minority, they drive innovation. Cater to them and you’ll build things that occasionally electrify the mainstream too.