Browser Company’s Chromium-based Arc browser “isn’t perfect and will take some getting used to,” writes The Verge. “But it’s full of big new ideas about how we should interact with the web — and most of them are right.”
Arc wants to be the operating system of the web. So it’s developed a suite of tools that make controlling apps and content easier, turned tabs and bookmarks into something more akin to an app launcher, and developed a few platform-wide apps of its own. The app is way more idiosyncratic and way more complicated than your average browser with its array of generic tabs at the top of the screen. Another way to think about it is that Arc treats the web the way TikTok treats video: not as a solid thing you can consume, but as a series of endlessly remixable components that you can pick apart, play with, and use, to create some of it your own. Would you like something to look better or have an idea what to do with it? Do it.
This is a fun moment in the web browser industry. After more than a decade of Chrome’s total dominance, users are looking elsewhere for more features, more privacy, and a better user interface. Vivaldi has some really clever features; SigmaOS also relies on browsers as operating systems; Brave has smart ideas about privacy; even Edge and Firefox are getting better fast. But Arc is the biggest swing of all: an attempt not only to improve the browser, but to completely reinvent it…
For now, Arc is only available for the Mac, but the company has said it’s also working on Windows and mobile versions, both of which are due out next year. Still in a waitlisted beta, it’s still a beta app that’s missing some basic features, other features are still in flux, and has a few deeply annoying bugs. But Arc’s big ideas are the right ones. I don’t know if The Browser Company is ready to take on giants and win the next generation of browser wars, but I bet the future of browsers looks a lot like Arc…
In some ways, Arc is more like ChromeOS than Chrome. It tries to extend the browser to become the only app you need, because in a world where all your apps are web apps and all your files are URLs, who really needs more than a browser?
The article describes Arc as a power user tool with a vertical sidebar that combines bookmarks, tabs, and apps. (And sets of these can apparently be combined into various “spaces”.) These are supported by an extensive set of keyboard shortcuts (including tab search) along with built-in media controls for Twitch/Spotify/Google Meet (as well as a picture-in-picture mode ).
BR. Arc even has a shareable, collaborative whiteboard app called Easel. And it also offers powerful features like the ability to rewrite the way your browser displays the CSS of any website. (“I have one that removes Twitter’s trending sidebar and another that cleans up my Gmail page.”)