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Vivaldi’s Double-Deckers

Illustration – Vivaldi browser
Illustration – Vivaldi browser

A new, major release of the Vivaldi browser, Version 5, for the desktop, but especially for Android (I hope Vivaldi for iOS will also one day be born!), has just appeared, in a Santa Claus spirit.

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, in his infamous sweaty stage talk, was chanting, “Developers, developers, developers!”

But I’d like to chant something else: “Customization, customization, customization!”

Customization: down to the minutest detail, yet without confusing even a novice user through the user interface. Nope, those two goals are not mutually exclusive – that’s exactly what the art of creating top-quality software is all about.

Customization is always the first hallmark of quality software! And the lack of a wealth of Vivaldi-like (formerly, Opera-like) customization options – so typical of Apple software, for example – is, conversely, the surest sign of low-quality or mediocre software.

And yes, to me, “Apple software” is synonymous with “low-quality software”: precisely due to its chronic lack of customization options, which is, in fact, intentional on Apple’s part.

Apple are proud of how dumb and inflexible their software is; Steve Jobs knew a lot about (designing) hardware, but was awkward (to put it mildly) regarding software.

It is unfortunate that many (most?) software developers (primarily American ones) appear intent on following – blindly, sheep-like? – Apple’s flawed and misguided role model of depriving software of much-needed, individualized flexibility (customization).

It is typical, for instance, for the same app to feature more customization options, and deeper functionality, in the Android version than in the iOS (iPhone, iPad) version of the same app (unless it was, perhaps, originally created only for Apple devices). (Take the finest mobile keyboard app, SwiftKey, now owned by Microsoft, as an example.)

And no wonder: restricting user freedom, limiting the palette of user options, is built into Apple’s DNA, as best (or worst…) exemplified in the woefully inadequate and frustrating iOS (now forked into iPad OS and iPhone OS) mobile operating system.

“Let’s throw away the entire palette of user choices, if we can possibly get away with it!” seems to be the preferred approach by software developers who believe that Apple is, in the world of software, an example to be followed, instead of one to be avoided.

Yes, such an attitude makes life a lot more comfortable for software developers: yet all the more frustrating – at times maddeningly, infuriatingly frustrating – for the end users of their products.

Shouldn’t the comfort of end users have preference over the comfort of software developers? “The customer is the king,” after all.

For quality software, it often appears as if you need to run away, as fast as you can, from America – and turn to European developers instead: Vivaldi’s (originally) Norwegians in our current instance; or Swedes and other miscellaneous Europeans with the likes of Spotify and Marvin; but frequently also Russians (FineReader, GoodReader…) and developers from former Soviet republics (The Bat!, PDF Expert…). Naturally, it’s not just Europeans; Asians (see Taiwan’s Moon+ Reader as the premier e-reader app for Android) and, I’m sure, all other nations and races are likewise perfectly capable of delivering world-leading software in this or that particular niche or specialization.

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Alexander Avenarius

Prekladateľ, korektor, tlmočník, učiteľ jazykov, správca serverov. Milovník elektronickej literatúry a mobilných prístrojov (čiže digitálny knihomoľ), študent filozofie a filmov, polyglot, grafoman, hobby-recenzent. Tvorca alternatívneho rozloženia slovenskej klávesnice. Môj alternatívny blog je na adrese extempore.avenarius.sk. Svoje knižné, filmové a iné recenzie posielam – vzhľadom na prehlbujúcu sa nefunkčnosť portálov IMDb a Amazon – aj do blogu AveKritik.com.