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VivaldiBrowser and search engine team up to help you stay private on the internet

By Jim Bray
March 22, 2018

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you."

I don't know, or care, who said that originally, but in this age of hacking and cyber corruption – and the deep state trying desperately to defeat the forces of light - it's becoming increasingly clear that there appears to be folks out in cyberspace who don't have your best interests in mind.

Indeed, you may have heard about how Facebook and Google have been revealed as corrupt data miners more interested in raking in cash and helping their fellow political travellers than in providing the benign platforms for the people they've purported to be.

Then there's the censorship being reported of right-leaning folks from places like Twitter and YouTube. It's enough to make one a tad, well, paranoid about spending time online in an environment that seems increasingly hostile to true diversity of thought.

Now, these companies are private businesses and can do whatever they want as long as it's legal. But that doesn't mean you have to make it easy for them. You may have nothing to hide, but that doesn't mean black hats should have access to everything you do with your computer or smart device. It's really no one else's business, as long as you aren't breaking the law either.

Into this scenario comes the Vivaldi browser, which is partnering with search engine DuckDuckGo to help you protect your privacy. I'd never heard of Vivaldi before receiving their press release, but it looks like a pretty interesting and flexible browser, and the privacy features appear quite compelling.

Vivaldi was started in Oslo by Jon von Tetzchner, who also founded Opera (perhaps he couldn't afjord to have his surfing tracked…). According to the press release, Vivaldi is the first browser to enable DuckDuckGo as the default search in its Private Windows.

This actually doesn't sound like as big a deal to me as the company is pushing, but your mileage may vary. I daresay most people never use private browsing and many don't even know it's available. I use private windows periodically, usually to surf my local newspapers' sites when my 10 free page views per month run out. Their strategy is to make me pay to get their spin and misinformation, whereas I might be convinced to pay if they'd do real journalism rather than just give me my daily dose of the establishment's agenda. It would also help if they could learn to spell and get basic facts straight.

I downloaded Vivaldi yesterday morning, March 21, before sitting down to write this rant, and it seems from my few minutes with it like I might want to keep using it. use Pale Moon currently, which also lets me use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, opens private tabs and works well overall, some multimedia issues notwithstanding.

My initial issue with Vivaldi was that I had to futz around with the default interface to discover how to open a private window. But it's there, under the "File" menu. Opening a private window turns the address and search boxes black, which is a handy way to remember you're in "paranoid mode."

The Vivaldi press release says that "opening a Private Window in Vivaldi allows users to browse in a more secure way. This means sites visited, cookies and temporary files will not be stored." This is exactly what you want. They also claim that "when users open a Private Window in the latest version of Vivaldi, they will find DuckDuckGo as their default search engine, unlike in other browsers."

That is true, though the public window stays with whatever search engine is designated in the Options menu. Making DDG your default search engine for both situations is easy though. You can change the setting in your settings menu, but if you just click on the down arrow icon in the search field box (top right corner of the browser window) you can choose DDG from there and it'll remember your choice.  

"We believe privacy is a fundamental right and that users should not be tracked online or offline," says Vivaldi CEO von Tetzchner. "The current climate demands a thriving internet – not an internet with increased surveillance and security breaches. There has been a widespread concern amongst users about their data being shared. More than ever, there is an immediate need to protect our privacy. We are proud to join hands with DuckDuckGo and provide solutions in Vivaldi that respect users' privacy."

Before today's update, if you typed your search request into the address bar at the top of the window, the search engine accessed was the one set in Preferences. With today's build when you type a search term in the URL field you will get search results depending on whether you're using a normal or a private window, the private window defaulting to DuckDuckGo - assuming you have not set them to the same place.

I noticed in the configuration section that Vivaldi offers you access to Google's malware and phishing stuff (I assume they mean "anti-malware and phishing...") and it lets you report "safe browsing incidents" to Google as well. How this lets you cut the evil Google loose is beyond me, unless you merely ensure you leave those choices' check boxes remain unchecked, which is simple to do.

Unlike at least some other search engines, DuckDuckGo doesn't collect or share its users' personal data. Again, I'm not paranoid, I just don't think it's anyone else's business what I do. And I've been using DuckDuckGo for a couple of years, because I'd been abused by Google and wanted a good alternative. DuckDuckGo has worked well for me, so seeing its integration into Vivaldi struck me as a good thing that I wanted to pass along to you.

I don't seem to be alone in this. Vivaldi's press release says that "a recent DuckDuckGo survey illustrates how privacy is becoming a mainstream concern in the U.S. with 24 per cent of U.S. adults taking significant action to protect their online privacy." Hopefully the recent news about how online services are betraying their users' trust will increase that percentage.

It's an education campaign. "A lot of people think their searches aren't tracked in private browsing modes. Unfortunately, that's not true," said DuckDuckGo's CEO and Founder, Gabriel Weinberg. "This new integration with Vivaldi enables people to get the privacy they expect and deserve in that mode."

Don't forget, this is only relevant to privacy mode, so your regular surfing won't be affected. However, if you do what I do and set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine right off the bat, it'll work in both modes (though of course you may not get all the protections of the browser's privacy mode).

There's more to Vivaldi than privacy, however. In my mere hours of using it, I've become intrigued by its features and flexibility and plan to use it for a while to see if I like it better than Pale Moon (I already like it better than Microsoft's Edge). I'm always on the lookout for a good browser, and hopefully Vivaldi will fill the bill.

Vivaldi, according to the company, was launched in 2016, and is designed to adapt to its users. "It takes browsing to the next level with its numerous features that give users a more dynamic experience of the web," the release continued. Some of the highlights that make Vivaldi a personal, "do-it-your-way" browser include:

  • Advanced tab management – ability to group, tile, move and pin tabs.
  • Side Panel with easy access to bookmarks, downloads, "tree-style" tab manager, notes, browsing history and websites of users' choice.
  • Built-in functionality such as the screenshot Capture tool, Notes and Image Properties.
  • Powerful History overview that lets users explore their browsing patterns.
  • Unique and customizable look and feel of the browser interface with custom Themes and more.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts and Mouse Gestures for quick browser commands.

This "marriage of convenience" between Vivaldi and DDG is a good example of smaller companies joining forces to fight the virtual monopoly threatened by the giants like Google and Facebook, companies famous for keeping track of your behaviour and profiling its users. While I have nothing against big companies, as a small businessman for decades I have a soft spot for the plucky little guys, so I wish these folks luck and encourage you to give 'em a try. 

Vivaldi Technologies bills itself as "an employee-owned company that creates products and services for discerning web users. In everything it does, Vivaldi believes in putting its users first including their privacy and does not track any usage data. Vivaldi is headquartered in Oslo, with offices in Reykjavik, Boston and Palo Alto."

DuckDuckGo is "an Internet privacy company that empowers you to seamlessly take control over your personal information online. We believe the Internet shouldn't feel so creepy, and getting the privacy you deserve should be as simple as closing the blinds. With our roots as the search engine that doesn't track you, we've expanded what we do to protect you no matter where you go on the Internet."

Looks like there may be a new sheriff in the wild, wild west of the world wide web.

Copyright 2018 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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