Vivaldi now has built-in options for blocking online trackers and ads, a change of heart for a web browser-maker whose founder had hoped regulators would step in to protect privacy. The new features, designed to improve performance, too, are set to arrive Wednesday with the release of Vivaldi 3.0.
The development of a version of Vivaldi for Android phones, the first stable version of which arrived Wednesday alongside an update for PCs, helped prompt the change. Testers told Vivaldi an ad blocker is "imperative" to speed up page loads and reduce mobile data use, the Norway-based browser-maker said.
Vivaldi users aren't alone in struggling with monthly network data limits. Chrome statistics show declines in data usage and slower website loading speeds toward the end of the month as people hit their monthly limits and are throttled to slower-speed networks.
The second impetus for blocking ads is Google's planned change to how extensions interact with Chrome and, by extension, browsers like Vivaldi that are based on its open-source Chromium foundation. Extension authors have warned that the change, called Manifest v3, could severely limit their ability to block ads and trackers.
Vivaldi Technologies' shift embodies the more aggressive approach browser-makers are taking to shield people from online ad technology that, even as it supports free online services, has also brought significant downsides to privacy, performance, convenience and security.
Blocking ads also blocks ad revenue for publishers, an effect Vivaldi is sensitive to.
"Put yourself in the shoes of your favorite websites. No doubt, you want them to keep producing your favorite content. You don't want to stop them from generating revenue," the company said in a blog post. Vivaldi recommends donating to websites and whitelisting ads for sites you trust. Vivaldi includes a shield icon in its address bar that lets you allow trackers or ads and trackers from the site you've got loaded.
Vivaldi prides itself on features and configuration flexibility, and it's kept that priority with the mobile browser, too. Vivaldi for Android includes a tool to full-website screenshots, lets you annotate websites with notes, present web pages with a cleaned-up reader view and sync your history and other personal data with Vivaldi for PCs.
Vivaldi has about 1.5 million users and 50 employees, said Chief Executive and founder Jon von Tetzchner, who helped launch another alternative browser, Opera, in the 1990s. Vivaldi isn't yet profitable.
Blocking ads and trackers
Ad blocking isn't turned on by default in Vivaldi. But nearly the first thing people will see if they install the browser is a configuration screen with three big buttons: no blocking, block trackers, and block trackers and ads.
Apple's Safari, Mozilla's Firefox and by default in an attempt to thwart publishers, advertisers and data brokers from logging your online activity. , blocking ads and trackers by default. and plans to make tracking harder in 2022 by blocking use of a technology called third-party cookies.
Such moves threaten publishers' revenue. Even when people decide just to block trackers, that can also block ads that come with tracking technology. That's why you'll see publishers encouraging you to disable ad blocking for their site or to sign up for subscriptions.
Browser-makers also are taking active measures to help websites. Mozilla began a partnership in the US with startup Scroll, which offers ad-free access to several online news sites for a monthly subscription. Brave Rewards is designed to send portions of the browser's built-in advertising system to you, Brave and the websites you visit.
Vivaldi's von Tetzchner believes's Brave approach, with lots of small payments, has some merit.
"Micropayment is not a bad idea, implemented correctly," he said. "We would have preferred there to be a standardized way to do this which would be based off hard currency."