The Browser Company’s Chromium-based Arc browser “isn’t perfect, and it takes some getting used to,” writes the Verge. “But it’s full of big new ideas about how we should interact with the web — and it’s right about most of them.”
Arc wants to be the web’s operating system. So it built a bunch of tools that make it easier to control apps and content, turned tabs and bookmarks into something more like an app launcher, and built a few platform-wide apps of its own. The app is much more opinionated and much more complicated than your average browser with its row of same-y 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 fixed thing for you to consume but as a set of endlessly remixable components for you to pull apart, play with, and use to create something of your own. Want something to look better or have an idea for what to do with it? Go for it.
This is a fun moment in the web browser industry. After more than a decade of total Chrome dominance, users are looking elsewhere for more features, more privacy, and better UI. Vivaldi has some really clever features; SigmaOS is also betting 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 them all: an attempt to not just improve the browser but reinvent it entirely….
Right now, Arc is only available for the Mac, but the company has said it’s also working on Windows and mobile versions, both due next year. It’s still in a waitlisted beta and is still very much a beta app, with some basic features missing, other features still in flux, and a few deeply annoying bugs. But Arc’s big ideas are the right ones. I don’t know if The Browser Company is poised to take on giants and win the next generation of the browser wars, but I’d bet that the future of browsers looks a lot like Arc….
In a way, Arc is more like ChromeOS than Chrome. It tries to expand 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 vertical sidebar combining bookmarks, tabs, and apps. (And sets of these can apparently be combined into different “spaces”.) These are enhanced with a hefty set of keyboard shortcuts (including tab searching), along with built-in media controls for Twitch/Spotify/Google Meet (as well as a picture-in-picture mode).
Arc even has a shareable, collaborative whiteboard app “Easel”. And it also offers powerful features like the ability to rewrite how your browser displays any site’s CSS. (“I have one that removes the Trending sidebar from Twitter and another that cleans up my Gmail page.”)