New browsing paradigm? Arc and The Browsing Company

The Browser Company is in the process of rolling out a new browser called Arc. The concept seems to be different from the traditional browser experience in that it seems to strive to allow one to personalize their internet experience.

What follows are background and questions about alternative web presentations generally, and the Arc browser specifically.

In an article published by Protocol (“One startup’s quest to take on Chrome and reinvent the web browser”), Arc functionality is described as a kind of universal web toolbox. From the article (2019):

Someone can grab any device with a screen, log into Arc, and immediately have their entire computing life — the apps, the files, the shared lists, everything — presented to them. […] That person might have a set of links or apps shared with their team at work, others with their kid’s soccer team, others that stay private.

This sounds interesting and maybe useful, but implies that a vast collection of personal information will be collected over time. That suggests strong security model is needed to protect that user data from any unauthorized access. I haven’t seen much about Arc’s usability, nor found anything about The Browser Company’s security model.

Now, some questions:

  1. Has anyone found Arc’s web presentation interesting or compelling? Does it personalize the web in a useful way? (From what I’ve read, there’s a noticeable learning curve.)
  2. Has anyone seen anything on Arc’s security model? Am I overestimating the risk?
  3. Related, does it seem that a new paradigm for working with the internet is needed?

Even though it’s in beta, they should indicate if and what user information they intend to collect or not, and what will be tracked. So this is a no-no for me, unless they change if and when they release a final version. Google, MS Edge, Safari have always been upfront about what information they collect and how and why they would use it, as well as tracking info.

The info is right there on their website, if you care to look.

I’m using Arc right now. I find it very compelling. Yes, there is a learning curve because they have some unique features.

1 Like

Discussion on Slashdot: 'The Arc Browser is the Chrome Replacement I've Been Waiting For' - Slashdot

Gordon, thanks for your reply. Can you point me to a specific link about their security? Maybe I’ve just missed it.

The only thing I’ve found is their privacy policy. Within that policy there’s a section titled How do we store and protect your data?. It’s a bit light on detail… Privacy policies can change, and they have. And privacy policies don’t protect user data from security breeches. What I hope to see is some technical solution that is more robust than a written policy.


The Verge has an article about Arc published is November.(Why one web pioneer thinks it’s time to reinvent the browser – link to The Verge) There’s a video with CEO Josh Miller linked in the article that describes the mission of the company and the product better than most articles I’ve seen.

There’s a key operating assumption here: everything digital that you touch or own is in the cloud. Josh says that’s true for him. It may be true for many people, and it may be more the case over time. The short video is worth watching to get a better sense of the vision of the company.

This video?

It is very interesting, and he makes a lot of good points about how people’s lives are mostly on-line these days. People like me (who actively avoid keeping personal data on servers owned and operated by others) are rare these day.

But it will be interesting to see if he can succeed in this vision where others have failed in the past.

Sun/Oracle bet heavily on the concept of the thin client - basically a more-capable form of graphical terminal. And Google has bet heavily on this concept via the Chromebook. But neither revolutionized the world, mostly due to the limited capabilities of the products (partially, but not entirely due to a requirement to keep the products very inexpensive).

The Browser Company’s focus seems to be not on replacing the computer, but with the way you access your apps/content. So you’ll still buy an expensive computer, but for the purpose of getting a better browser experience, and not necessarily for any other capabilities.

This might work for your typical business use-cases, where you are focusing almost entirely on working with Office apps and remote collaboration. And even for gaming (thanks to the rise of game streaming services), but it runs counter to how other companies are innovating.

For instance, Apple is focusing heavily in on-device machine learning capabilities, in order to provide intelligent services without the need to expose your entire life to third-party companies that may or may not be trustworthy. Their vision is for massive connectivity, but with certain critical parts of infratructure always remaining local.

And certain things, I think, are going to remain local for a long time. Like content creation. There may be good browser based office suites, but would anyone want to use an on-line version of Photoshop for non-trivial projects? What about video editing? The bandwidth needed to import media from cameras to the project’s databases is going to be orders of magnitude greater than typical internet connections if performance is going to be similar to what people do today with local storage and LAN-based servers. Plus the cost of leasing storage for all this (vs. owning media and servers for a large project or your business’s entire library of projects).

It will be interesting to see if their version of this concept manages to succeed where others did not.


Yes, that video, though I just watched in the article.

You make some very good points about past thin clients. I hadn’t made that connection. This is effectively a software thin client, putting the hardware acquisition on the consumer, or assuming some browsing hardware platform is ubiquitous. Another change from the Sun/Oracle thin client days is more available high bandwidth Internet service, and more web applications. It will be interesting to see if Arc succeeds in this space.

It seems that the concept would be especially appealing among consumers of internet content. This is the way I’ve mostly viewed the iPad – good for content consumption, but not so much for content creation. There are exceptions, of course. Arc may be well suited for use on an iPad.