Arc
Developer(s)The Browser Company
Initial release25 July 2023; 8 months ago (2023-07-25)[1]
Stable release(s)
macOS1.36.0[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 28 March 2024; 8 days ago (28 March 2024)
iOS1.11.0[3] Edit this on Wikidata / 2 February 2024; 2 months ago (2 February 2024)
Preview release(s)
Windows0.15.2[4] Edit this on Wikidata / 28 March 2024; 8 days ago (28 March 2024)
Written inSwift (macOS, Microsoft Windows, and iOS Companion App)
EngineBlink,[5][6] 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 March 2024, the beta test for Windows has over 110,000 members.[7][8]

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.[9] 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[5][6] 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. 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.[10][11]

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.[12][13] The Browser Company has employees who have previously worked at other technology firms, including Instagram, Tesla, Medium and Google.[14]

The browser was released on 19 April 2022 via an announcement on Twitter.[15] It had previously undergone a beta test, with the roughly 100 testers involved[13] bound to a non-disclosure agreement.[16] Users are only able to use the browser after signing up to an Arc account with an email address.[17]

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.[10][18]

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.[19] 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[20] and is based on Google's Chromium codebase which means it supports 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.[17] 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.[12]

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.[17] Arc includes an optional built-in ad blocker, and The Browser Company claims it does not share user's search data.[21]

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.[14] 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)[10] but can be retrieved in Arc's "archived tabs" section.[17] Tabs can also be renamed.[18]

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.[17] Aside from built-in applications, Arc also has integrations with other web applications, like Gmail and Google Calendar.[22]

Arc lets users customise how they see websites using its "boosts" feature. Originally added in July 2022,[23] 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.[11][19] Engadget described this feature as allowing users to "vandalize" websites.[11]

Arc's "Air Traffic Control" feature lets users select which space a specific link will be opened at.[24] 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.

On February 2024, The Browser Company announced the addition of three AI powered features. The first feature, "Instant Links", which was launched that same day, allowed users to instantly open multiple links by searching for the user's search query with AI, rather than having to go through a search engine to get to the pages.[25] The two other announced features, "Live Folders" and "Arc Explore" were not launched initially, with the former being released in a beta state 2 weeks later, while the latter had no release date specified.[26]

The announcement also mentioned Arc Search, a new iOS app released four days prior, featuring a "Browse for Me" feature that would use AI to read webpages related to the user's query to create a new webpage containing quotes, summaries, and embedded videos regarding the query.[27]

Platforms

Arc is available for macOS as a universal binary and Microsoft Windows (Closed Limited Beta,[28] built in Swift[20]). A stripped-down companion app with only the sidebar functionality was released for iOS on 30 March 2023.[29][30] Arc Search, the experimental Act II mobile browser, replaced that app as the only Arc mobile app on iOS on January 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.[27]

On February 2024, a stripped-down version of Arc Search containing only the "Browse For Me" feature became available on the Arc browser and other desktop browsers.

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".[17] 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".[10] In an article published by Fast Company, Jared Newman called Arc the most polished of "all the attempts to reimagine the web browser".[16] In an episode, David Imel of the Waveform Podcast said it was a "new take on the browser".[31]

Chris Smith of BGR criticized the browser: "Arc is forcing you to create an account before you get to experience the browser at all. Google and Microsoft are dying for you to use their browsers while logged in. But they won’t force you to register an account if you don’t want to."[32]

References

  1. ^ "The excellent Arc browser is now available for anyone to download". The Verge. 25 July 2023. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  2. ^ "Arc for macOS - 2024 Release Notes - Arc Help Center". 28 March 2024. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  3. ^ "Arc Sidebar Sync on the App Store". 2 February 2024. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  4. ^ "Arc for Windows Beta Release Notes". 28 March 2024. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  5. ^ a b "What Is the Arc Browser, the Invite-Only Way to Browse Online?". CMSWire.com. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  6. ^ a b "'The Arc Browser is the Chrome Replacement I've Been Waiting For' - Slashdot". slashdot.org. 19 November 2022. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  7. ^ "The Best Chrome Alternative Is Coming to Windows by the End of the Year". Inverse. 23 October 2023. Archived from the original on 5 November 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  8. ^ "Arc for Windows by The Browser Company". www.isarconwindowsyet.com. Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  9. ^ Pierce, David (25 July 2023). "The excellent Arc browser is now available for anyone to download". The Verge. Retrieved 5 February 2024.
  10. ^ a b c d Pierce, David (17 November 2022). "The Arc browser is the Chrome replacement I've been waiting for". The Verge. Archived from the original on 21 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  11. ^ a b c Ingraham, Nathan (25 May 2023). "The Arc internet browser lets you customize (or vandalize) any website". Engadget. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  12. ^ a b Moore-Colyer, Roland (18 November 2022). "The Arc browser is here to replace Chrome — and cure your tab chaos". Tom's Guide. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  13. ^ a b Pierce, David (25 May 2021). "One startup's quest to take on Chrome and reinvent the web browser". Protocol. Archived from the original on 24 June 2023. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  14. ^ a b "Meet Arc, a new innovative browser that challenges Chrome". Indian Express. 28 March 2023. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  15. ^ The Browser Company [@browsercompany] (19 April 2022). "it's called Arc" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ a b Newman, Jared (2 August 2022). "Four radical Chrome alternatives to reboot your web browser". Fast Company. Archived from the original on 20 April 2023. Retrieved 21 June 2023.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Brookes, Tim (1 May 2023). "Arc Browser Review: A Plucky New Browser With Big Ideas". How-To Geek. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  18. ^ a b Wong, Raymond (22 December 2022). "Arc is the best web browser to come out in the last decade". Inverse. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  19. ^ a b Pierce, David (25 May 2023). "Arc's new Boosts feature lets you change the way any website looks". The Verge. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  20. ^ a b Callaham, John (19 May 2023). "The team behind the Arc browser gives an update on its upcoming Windows version". Neowin. Archived from the original on 25 June 2023. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  21. ^ "Privacy Policy". arc.net. Retrieved 21 January 2024.
  22. ^ Carr 2022, p. 60.
  23. ^ Mehta, Ivan (25 May 2023). "Arc browser's new tool lets you remove some elements from a website". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  24. ^ "Air Traffic Control: Route Links to the Right Space Automatically | Arc Resources". resources.arc.net. Retrieved 27 August 2023.
  25. ^ Ingraham, Nathan (1 February 2024). "The Arc Browser is getting new AI-powered features that try to browse the web for you". Engadget. Retrieved 25 February 2024.
  26. ^ Serrano, Jody (2 February 2024). "Arc's New AI Browser Features Are an Act of War Against Google Search". Gizmodo. Retrieved 25 February 2024.
  27. ^ a b Pierce, David (29 January 2024). "Arc Search combines browser, search engine, and AI into something new and different". The Verge. Retrieved 29 January 2024.
  28. ^ "Arc Browser for Windows beta invites are finally being sent out". Neowin. 15 December 2023. Retrieved 15 December 2023.
  29. ^ Pierce, David (30 March 2023). "Arc's mobile browser is here — and it's not really a web browser at all". The Verge. Archived from the original on 16 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  30. ^ Clark, Mitchell (27 March 2023). "Arc is coming to iPhone, but it won't replace Safari yet, says CEO". The Verge. Archived from the original on 18 June 2023. Retrieved 18 June 2023.
  31. ^ We're Loving These Products!, retrieved 19 December 2023
  32. ^ Smith, Chris (31 July 2023). "I want to try the trendy Arc browser, but not if they force me to register an account". BGR.

Sources

Further reading