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The Chief Executive Officer of The Vivaldi Browser Seeks to Improve Online Advertising

One of our favorite browsers is Vivaldi, and for a good reason. Not only are customization choices and features abundant, but they also help to improve your web browsing experience. Nevertheless, it also has a tracking blocker that prevents advertising from following you wherever you go online. While many modern browsers come with features of that nature by default, Vivaldi goes above and beyond. The CEO of Vivaldi, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, whom we spoke with after MWC 2023, favors a radical renaissance that would move us to a broad and content-based approach like we’re used to from print and TV. He doesn’t believe in the attention- and tracking-based advertising world we currently live in.

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With a brief digression, Jon begins by telling us that the internet was only sometimes the attention-based advertising machine it is now. When Facebook went public in 2012 and strongly emphasized shareholders’ interests, this tendency only recently began. The result was a revamp of the Facebook feed that put less emphasis on friends and more on purportedly fascinating information to keep users on the network as long as possible and monetize their interactions.

With this strategy, publishers could suddenly compete with one another on the same platform, which increased the number of headlines designed to get clicks and decreased the amount of funding available to divide among websites as a whole. The rapid adoption of this strategy by other platforms due to Facebook’s success includes Twitter, which has long attempted to replace the cherished chronological timeline with an algorithmic feed.

Due to this, low-quality, large-volume advertisements have started to appear, over which advertisers have less control than newspaper programmatic ads. People are likely more satisfied with how the system is set up. They have yet to decide which websites they will eventually have. In Jon’s opinion, publishers switching to paywalls is another piece of evidence that the present ad system is dysfunctional. , and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and,.,. Paywalls indicate that targeted ads are inferior, less effective, and generate less revenue than the previous strategy, which has changed today.

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Jon explains that Vivaldi rejects the attention-based model. The browser actively seeks to provide countermeasures to such attempts to keep you in their service for as long as possible. Other services like Vivaldi Mail and Calendar can be used with Vivaldi accounts, or you can plug into them with your existing IMAP services. The browser has a built-in RSS feed reader that you can curate yourself, which is strictly chronological by nature.

Moreover, Vivaldi actively supports its users in blocking trackers and doesn’t believe in gathering user data. Although Jon is unhappy about it, the browser includes an ad blocker. He would have wanted to stick with a tracking blocker, which would encourage websites and social media to provide privacy-conscious ads instead. Nonetheless, Vivaldi users continued to request inclusion. This, according to Jon, also distinguishes Vivaldi from its rivals. He claims that concessions had to be made since the browser was created by and for friends.

In contrast to ad blocker AdBlock Plus and Vivaldi’s rival browser, Brave, the firm prefers to refrain from intervening directly in legal disputes. Using the “approved advertisements” scheme that AdBlock Plus has by default embedded into its extension, partner websites can add unobtrusive adverts to their websites with all the standard tracking enabled. On the other hand, Brave, by default, prevents all tracking and advertising. You can still choose whether or not to get advertisements as notifications on your phone or laptop. You acquire tokens in Brave’s cryptocurrency for doing this, which you can either spend on yourself or give to the websites you’ve visited as a substitute for ad blocking.

Yet content producers must choose to participate in either of these strategies. The conditions imposed by these unique systems developed by businesses that essentially limit their main source of income are unacceptable to publishers. They no longer receive any money in that situation.

Jon would want to promote the use of regulators (he wants to avoid calling what he does lobbying). When we met, he was en route to Brussels to speak with EU officials. He imagines a scenario in which tracking-based advertising is outlawed. Publishers go back to traditional forms of advertising, such as those you are familiar with from newspapers, magazines, and television, as they existed before the internet. Ads would be more programmatic and based on broader target populations or the content they are matched with rather than being based on the interests of users.

The advantage of this strategy is that publishers won’t necessarily make less money from it than through tracking-based advertising. According to Jon, advertisers have marketing budgets. Instead of using this money for tracking-based advertisements, which are prohibited, they would use it for content-targeted advertisements. If you ask us, this is a lot like how television advertising now operates, with a general target audience in mind for specific programming. And let’s assume you are aware of the cost of Super Bowl ads. In that situation, this advertising is profitable enough (though, of course, the Super Bowl is one of the most viewed TV events annually, so that might not be the best example).

On the surface, Google’s planned Privacy Sandbox, which tracks users locally before grouping them according to shared interests and reducing their trackability, has something similar in mind. Nevertheless, as Jon explained to our sister website XDA, who also spoke to him during MWC 2023, this merely moves the tracking problem from servers to the browser.

Although Vivaldi cannot change the current structure of the internet on its alone, the company can contribute. Its user-focused, privacy-conscious approach to web browsing can provide you a glimpse of what the internet might be like without tracking, which is more than can be said for many rivals.

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