In the late 1990s, when you installed a web browser, you didn’t just have a web browser. With Internet Explorer 4 and Netscape Communicator 4, you will get a suite of internet-connected products. That’s partly because the internet isn’t just the web. There is a large ecosystem of Internet protocols that do not require a web browser. With the latest Vivaldi update, the email and RSS feed reader features are now final releases. They’ve been available for beta testing since last year, but now they’re real.
A real email program
Email has always been the most widely used messaging protocol on the Internet. Nowadays, some may say that Whatsapp is the most used messaging app, but that is not true by far. Email usage will likely soon reach 4.5 billion users and this usage base is double the user base of the second email service.
The email communications ecosystem is also huge. If there’s something you don’t like about your current email program or service, there’s probably an alternative that fixes whatever you might be complaining about. The beauty is that your changing apps or messaging servers doesn’t require you to pressure everyone to change as well, which IS the case with more discriminatory messaging systems like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram , Slack, Facebook Messenger, etc. For Apple’s iMessage, you even have to pressure people to use a specific phone! Email is completely open, non-discriminatory and customizable. See: How (and Why) Email Could Become Your Favorite Messaging System.
Anyway, Vivaldi has finalized its first email program and it is well integrated with the Vivaldi browser. You might say, “Why don’t I just use the regular webmail client?” Well, sure, you can still do that, but a native offline email client can offer more functionality and flexibility than you could get through a web app.
For example, your webmail client probably doesn’t support accessing multiple email accounts from multiple servers. You probably need to log in to your work email in another web browser tab, as well as your personal email, spam/shopping account, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that now you have to use your cognitive energy to learn a multitude of user interfaces. conventions and browser windows instead of just one. You cannot move or organize emails from one account to another consistently. With some native email programs, you can consolidate everything and manage messages between accounts by easily dragging and dropping messages into different folders (unfortunately, this aspect is currently not possible in Vivaldi Mail 1.0).
RSS feed reader
For a while, many web browsers had good “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS) feed readers built-in. These disappeared at some point for some reason, but now Vivaldi has brought one back to its Chromium-based web browser. Maybe normal people never really understood how to use RSS readers? Basically, RSS is just an XML listing of minimal content like titles, text, images, videos, MP3s, and/or HTML. RSS is actually the basis for “podcasts” which are really just RSS feeds with MP3 audio files attached. Essentially, with an RSS reader, you can “follow” all of your favorite news sites, podcasts, social media feeds, and more. and the RSS reader will simply download all of these items periodically and put them in a list. With Vivaldi, this list of RSS “posts” is formatted very similarly to their mailing lists, so managing everything can be very familiar.
This is very similar to how the old browser wars between the Internet Explorer 4 suite and the Netscape Communicator suite implemented things, except that back then email was integrated into group support. Usenet chat. Although newsgroups are not really like RSS feeds. Newsgroups were more like discussion forums that didn’t need a website. In other words, the same sort of thing as Slack, MS Teams, Discord, etc.
Calendar, Contacts, Notes
If you have an email program, you can also add a calendar, contact list, and notes to it. Vivaldi has that too. Calendar synchronization must be configured separately from email accounts and only supports CalDAV, Google Calendar and Web Calendar accounts, so no support for Microsoft Exchange Server (which is basically what the majority of the world’s running on business.)
What else did 90s internet communication suites have?
I kinda miss the days of 90s internet communication suites like the Internet Explorer 4 and Netscape Communciator 4 bundles. Granted, they were a bit fiddly with all the extra apps when really all you really needed might be a web browser.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer suite also included NetMeeting, an Internet voice and video application for video calling in the days of 54Kbs modems. Today, these features are built into the web browser with WebRTC standards, but there are no true global user directories like we had in NetMeeting.
Vivaldi also lacks an HTML editor like Microsoft FrontPage Express or Netscape Composer from the 1990s, although with the proliferation of very user-friendly server-based content management systems like WordPress, a native offline HTML editor is no longer really necessary. .
The built-in suite of apps added to the Vivaldi browser is certainly a welcome addition, but they lack in some areas where a dedicated email program or RSS feed reader might have more desirable features or capabilities. For example, the lack of Microsoft Exchange support is going to be difficult for business users and the RSS feeds section has no option to categorize feeds (although you can categorize feed posts) or import/export lists of OMPL flows.
Still, I love seeing more new email programs to choose from, and the resurgence of RSS readers for browsing content listings is a great alternative to reliance on crazy social media posting algorithms. Definitely consider trying Vivaldi’s new features, and if you don’t like them, don’t worry, Vivaldi is so customizable that it’s very easy to hide things you don’t care about.