Arc (web browser)

Arc
Developer(s)The Browser Company
Initial release25 July 2023; 6 months ago (2023-07-25)
Stable release(s)
macOS1.29.0 Edit this on Wikidata / 8 February 2024; 5 days ago (8 February 2024)
iOS1.11.0 Edit this on Wikidata / 2 February 2024; 11 days ago (2 February 2024)
Preview release(s)
Windows0.8.0 Edit this on Wikidata / 8 February 2024; 5 days ago (8 February 2024)
Written inSwift (macOS, Microsoft Windows, and iOS Companion App)
EngineBlink, V8 (WebKit on iOS)
Operating system
TypeWeb browser
LicenseProprietary software
Websitearc.net

Arc is a freeware web browser developed by The Browser Company, a startup company founded by Josh Miller and Hursh Agrawal. It was released on 19 April 2022 after having undergone a closed beta test. Arc is available for use on macOS and iOS. A Microsoft Windows version of the browser is in development, and is currently being rolled out to beta testers. As of February 2024, the beta test for Windows has just over 25 thousand members.

Arc aims to act as an operating system for the web and tries to integrate web browsing with built-in applications and features. These include a virtual notepad, a scrapbook-style "easel", and "boosts", a feature that lets users cosmetically redesign a website in a similar way to browser extensions. As opposed to many other browsers, Arc uses vertical tabs (which can be found in a sidebar). The sidebar contains all of the browser's functionality besides the browsing window. Arc is based on Chromium and is written in Swift. It supports Chrome browser extensions, and uses Google Search by default.

Arc has received coverage from several technology-focused media outlets, including The Verge, Ars Technica, How-To Geek and Engadget. Arc has been quoted as "The Chrome Replacement I've Been Waiting For", according to The Verge. Critics gave Arc a generally positive reception, citing the potential of new ideas and features the browser presents. However, most coverage added that the browser still needed polishing.

Production and release

Arc was designed by The Browser Company, a startup company from New York City founded by Josh Miller and Hursh Agrawal in 2019. The Browser Company has employees who have previously worked at other technology firms, including Instagram, Tesla, Medium and Google.

The browser was released on 19 April 2022 via an announcement on Twitter. It had previously undergone a beta test, with the roughly 100 testers involved bound to a non-disclosure agreement. Users are only able to use the browser after signing up to an Arc account with an email address.

Design

Arc is designed to be an "operating system for the web", and integrates standard browsing with Arc's own applications through the use of a sidebar. The browser is designed to be customisable and allows users to cosmetically change how they see specific websites.

An example of Robert Irwin's art using scrims, which influenced Arc's design

Arc lets the user pick the color they want it to appear in (either a static color or a color gradient) during installation. Speaking with Input magazine, Karla Cole (one of Arc's designers) stated that it's because the design team "wanted to play with the feeling you get as a movie opens".

Arc is written in Swift and is based on Google's Chromium codebase, the same codebase powering other popular browsers such as Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. As it is based on Chromium, users are able to download browser extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

Features

Arc uses a sidebar to store all parts of the browser—including the search bar, tab list and bookmarks—aside from the viewing window. The sidebar also contains controls for audio playback, which can be accessed while not using the tab playing the audio. This functionality also works with video call software, such as Google Meet.

The search bar present in Arc is similar in functionality and design to Apple's Spotlight feature. It can be used to search for websites and URLs as normal, as well as being able to pin tabs, duplicate tabs and access browser history. Arc includes an optional built-in ad blocker, and The Browser Company claims it does not share user's search data.

Tabs in Arc can be put into "spaces", organised tabs with separate areas that can be given different themes and browser profiles. Tabs in spaces can be put in a split-screen view with up to four tabs per window. Tabs can also be pinned, which puts them in a labelled area in the sidebar. Unpinned tabs disappear after a period of time (which can be changed or disabled in settings) but can be retrieved in Arc's "archived tabs" section. Tabs can also be renamed.

Arc includes several built-in applications, including an "easel" function, which can be used to collect webpage screenshots and URLs. The easel includes tools for typing and drawing. Easels can be kept private, shared with other people for collaboration or posted online. There is also a notebook function, which can be accessed from the search bar. Aside from built-in applications, Arc also has integrations with other web applications, like Gmail and Google Calendar.

Arc lets users customise how they see websites using its "boosts" feature. Originally added in July 2022, boosts act similarly to browser extensions, but allow the user to fully customise their experience using CSS, HTML and JavaScript. A 2.0 update to boosts in 2023 added a simplified interface that allows the user to change website colors, change fonts and remove sections using the "zap" control. Boosts can be shared for use by other users as long as they do not use JavaScript, for security reasons. The Browser Company maintains a gallery of boosts they choose to display. Engadget described this feature as allowing users to "vandalize" websites.

Arc's "Air Traffic Control" feature lets users select which space a specific link will be opened at. Users can create what's called a "route" that defines which space the link will be opened when the link is opened from an external source. The "Air Traffic Control" feature can be accessed and modified from the Arc settings > Links > Air Traffic Control.

Act II

On February 1, 2024, The Browser Company announced three AI powered features, all part of what they called "Arc Act II". The first feature allowed users to "Instant Open" what they are searching for, meaning to open the webpage they want directly using AI, rather than having to go through a search engine to get to the page. This feature was launched that day, but other features such as "Arc Explore" and "Live Folders" are said to be coming in the near future.

The video announcing Act II also mentioned Arc Search, a completely reimagined new iOS app released four days prior on January 28, featuring a "Browse for Me" feature that would read webpages related to the user's query and create a completely new webpage, complete with quotes, summaries, and embedded videos.

Platforms

Arc is available for macOS (on both Intel and Apple Silicon chips, using universal binary) and Microsoft Windows (Closed Limited Beta, built in Swift rather than C++). A stripped-down companion app with only the sidebar functionality was released for iOS on 30 March 2023. Arc Search, the experimental Act II mobile browser, replaced that app as the only Arc mobile app on iOS on January 28, 2024. However, the companion app will merge into Arc Search in the future, with Arc Search being renamed to Arc. Currently an Arc account is not required to use Arc Search.

Reception

Arc has received generally favourable reviews from critics. How-To Geek gave the browser a 7/10, saying that "Arc has some excellent ideas and the confidence to lean into them [... but] feels like it needs a bit more polish to deliver a silky smooth browsing experience". David Pierce of The Verge agreed and said that "Arc isn’t perfect, and it takes some getting used to. But it’s full of big new ideas about how we should interact with the web — and it’s right about most of them". In an article published by Fast Company, Jared Newman called Arc the most polished of "all the attempts to reimagine the web browser". In an episode, David Imel of the Waveform Podcast said it was a "New take on the browser"


This page was last updated at 2024-02-14 16:38 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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