Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Arc Browser

Matt Birchler:

While Vivaldi targets people who want absolute control over everything and who always want more functionality, while Arc is more focused on appealing to Mac enthusiasts who want a reliable browser that looks great and sports all the keyboard shortcuts and advanced features if they want them. Oh, and a couple surprises you probably didn’t see coming on top of that.


Browser apps have used top navigation and tab organization since the invention of the Internet, so there are more than a few years of muscle memory to overcome. But with Arc’s vast keyboard shortcut support and the power of the left sidebar, a little practice inside Arc will pay dividends in short order.

I was immediately turned off because when you launch the app you have to log in, and the “Why do I need an account?” help page talks about how they care about privacy but does not actually give any reasons why you need an account.

Though still in limited beta—Mac-only—it already has support in 1Password, unlike Orion, which has been available to the public since 2021.

David Pierce:

Arc, the new browser from a startup called The Browser Company, is such a divergent idea about how browsers should work that it takes some time, and some real effort, to get used to.


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.

Adam Engst (Mastodon, Hacker News):

I realize calling Arc “the most transformative app I’ve used in decades” is a bold statement that requires a lot of support. I won’t skimp on words in this article telling you why—it’s that important and requires new ways of thinking about how you work on the Web.


Space is a collection of tabs in the sidebar. The icons Arc uses to represent SpacesIt’s easy to switch between them using keyboard shortcuts (Control-1, Control-2, etc., or Command-Option-Left/Right Arrow) or by clicking little icons at the bottom of the sidebar.

You can assign each Space a color, providing an instant visual clue for what Space you’re in.


Arc lets you set up each Space with its own Profile. In Arc’s world, each Profile maintains its own logins, history, saved passwords, extensions, and more.


Arc’s designers have thought deeply about how to help users create appropriate levels of persistence. In the process, they eliminated bookmarks entirely, replacing them with pinned tabs. (For performance reasons, Arc keeps only recently used pinned tabs active, so unused ones don’t consume more resources than a bookmark would have.) Both are just URLs under the hood, of course, so what makes eliminating bookmarks possible is Arc’s focus on its sidebar. The sidebar has sections for three levels of persistence: Favorites, Pinned Tabs, and Today.

John Gruber:

[Hursh Agrawal’s] tweet has a two-minute video that outlines a tremendously ambitious plan:

  • Swift on Windows (compiler, debugger)
  • VSCode integration, Swift bindings for WinAppSDK
  • Porting Arc to Windows


Update (2023-06-13): David Pierce:

Boosts has two features. You can use it to change the colors and fonts on a page, or you can use it to hide any given part of the page.


Update (2023-07-25): Arc has now reached 1.0 (via Hacker News). It still requires an account.


Yeah their messaging is a bit strange. Perhaps someone with more info on Arc can clarify, but their landing page makes a strong point about them being privacy-conscious, and their summary of their own terms of service is “TLDR: we won’t spy on you”, but at the same time you must log in to use the browser. What is their monetization strategy? If something is VC-backed and free, it’s hard to believe that they aren’t ad supported in some way, which almost always relies on some amount of tracking.

Nick Heer:

Trying Arc and having a pretty rough time. You cannot use it — a web browser! — without creating an account. It nags you more than once to set it as the default browser. It looks like it uses Google’s password manager, which I do not want to use. (Trying different browsers would be a lot easier if they used the system Keychain.)

The problem, for me, is that I think it may be conceptually better for me than Safari. I just wish it felt better.

7 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I've been using Arc for more than six months as my primary web browser and I love it! It's different and even weird in some ways when you're new to it, but given time you'll start to appreciate the features and the new thinking. You really have to set is as primary browser and you have to set aside some time in the beginning to let them explain how Arc i different and then embrace it, to get the most out of it. If you just install Arc as fun side browser then you should almost not bother with it at all.

The idea of adopting a browser like this is terrifying. Since the browser is the key to the internet and how I use it accurately reflect my current life. How much trust could I possibly have for a browser with mandatory log-in? I don't understand how the endorsors managed to justify this.

I've not used Arc but it sounds a lot like Stack browser. However Stack doesn't have a mandatory login. Works on PC and Mac. Separate Spaces to organize Cards(aka tabs). Private Session Cards allow login to multiple Discord, Facebook, etc accounts. Still a work in progress but it is very functional in current form. I've used it as my primary browser for the last 2 years now?

Old Unix Geek

Logging in = Hard pass for me.

Kevin Schumacher

Coincidentally (or not; I read the Tidbits article yesterday, too) I got into the beta for Arc today and have been trying it out for the last several hours.

The mandatory account is for sync, as far as it states; since it's free software without a license involved, I'm guessing it also has something to do with preventing it from being passed around so they can control the beta distribution. I did see somewhere that they will probably make them paid accounts at some point, since they're not making money from advertising or selling data. I didn't think too much about creating an account since I would have eventually, anyway; I need sync for whatever browser I use. It's based on Chrome or Chromium, though they never explicitly state that that I saw (except in the About window). But of course this means that it runs all Chrome extensions, which to me is another point in its favor.

I have (actually) coincidentally been looking for a better way to divide my work browsing tabs from non-work. Not so much for keeping accounts separate, although that's helpful, but more so just to keep them partitioned visually and keep me on task. I was toying with Coherence X and Unite a couple days ago, and I think I will use Unite for specific one-offs, but neither was quite what I wanted.

So far, Arc is feeling good. I've got a space set up for work with folders and pinned tabs, and other spaces set up for some non-work stuff. I was definitely feeling more focused having just the work space visible. The whole thing where new tabs from pinned tabs appear as like popover windows is still confusing to me, but I'm slowly getting used to the general ideas.

The one thing I am sure of right now is the app icon sucks hard, like "can't believe they shipped it" hard. That needs to change. Beyond that, we'll see how it goes.

Kevin Schumacher

Seems like it uses iCloud for syncing, so the account requirement has become less clearly defined. Also, it does not sync things like extensions and history, so it's also very much less useful than e.g. Brave. I do still like a lot of the unique features, so I will stick with it for now and see if I can cobble together sync just passing the necessary App Support folder back and forth.

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