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The Arc browser sounds interesting, but I can’t tell how it’ll make its money

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I’ve read a couple of glowing reviews of the new Arc browser. So, naturally enough, I thought I’d take a look.

Alas, I can’t simply download Arc, despite its invitation to “Try it for yourself”. No. Instead, I’ll have to provide the makers of Arc – whoever they are – with my email address and wait until my “spot is ready and waiting”. I guess my name’s not down I’m not coming in.

Still, according to the page’s title, I’m going to “Help us build a better internet”, which is nice.

(Also: using Typeform for the form? You can build a cutting edge browser, but you can’t mark up an accessible form?)

Chris Coyier refers to Chrome’s fundamental problem: it exists to feed Alphabet’s bottom line. Its good or bad UX ultimately results from that purpose. It’s great that a browser can look at the experience from a new angle, but the question remains: what’s the motivation behind the company and how will it pay the bills?

You have to have an Arc account to use Arc. That feels a little forceful, but I get it. At some point, this company is going to have to make money, and I’m sure it’s going to have something to do with having an account.

I feel that “something” is doing some heavy lifting. As far as I know, The New York Browser Company will have to make money by either charging for its product (which is fine) or by monetising its users’ data (which isn’t).

There’s nothing on the company site about its financial model. Lots of stuff about intensity and folksy tales of driving with one’s father, though. There is a list of its investors:

We’ve raised over $17 million dollars from a diverse group that includes the founders of Instagram, Stripe, Twitter, Zoom, Figma, and LinkedIn.

Hmm. Them again.

At a time when we’re questioning the whole financial model of the internet and experimenting with not-for-profit, ground-up alternatives, I think these are important questions. The browser is the software through which we experience the internet – its manufacturers have incredible power. I’d be more comfortable if Arc wasn’t trying to hook me with tacky marketing and told me how it’ll make its money.

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Colin Walker

According to their CEO in this video they envisage charging business for corporate use (like Slack, Notion, etc. Presumably there will be a lot of collaboration functionality) and possibly a marketplace for ‘boosts’ — where people can create what are effectively plugins which have specific functionality or improve things.

He says they will never sell user data and the browser will be free to individuals.

Leon

Morning @Colin,

Thanks for pointing me to that.

I dunno. It’s a slick bit of marketing, very “hey dudes, this is cool” but I instintively mistrust tech CEOs in hoodies doing the whole we’re so different thing. We have been here many, many times before.

So that sounds like, “we’ve got our funding, now we’re figuring out how we’ll make money, but we don’t know”. That’s an interesting approach to starting a business. Consider my eyebrow raised at making money from plugins, and I don’t see companies paying for browsers. Slack facilitates collaboration and communication – I don’t see how browsers do. This is all “hey, just trust us!”

We may not sell your data, but what happens if Arc is acquired? That seems the most obvious way anyone’s going to make money in lieu of not selling user data.

To me, Arc is all buzz at the moment; there’s a Tesla feel to it (check out the video comments).

Are you using it? Is it actually any good?

Oh yeah, could he not place his coffee cup somewhere else?

Colin Walker

I hear what you’re saying. And yeah, the coffee cup was annoying XD

I’ve had Arc for a couple of weeks but only really started using it in the past couple of days. It’s actually pretty good. It’s based on Chromium, so no shocks or surprises there, but it’s what they’re building around it that makes it stand out. Once you get your head around how it works it’s nice to organise be able to organise tabs into spaces. My favourite feature is “Easel” where you can put clips from pages and files into a scrapbook type thing, mark it up, and even have those clips as live content.

Whether the novelty will wear off I can’t say but it’s fun at the moment.

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calm.like.a.bomb

@leonp I'm so sick of the hype for this browser. What does it do that other browsers don't? There is no info about what rendering engine it uses. If it uses a chromium based engine, then it's nothing new. There are other browsers that do vertical tabs as well or better than arc. So why should anyone use it?

leonpaternoster

@clmbmb Yeah, it’s another Chromium browser. It’s very low on detail: I can’t stand this exclusive-club style marketing which depends on “influencers” writing about it.

There might well be some interesting stuff in there, but if I don’t know how it makes its money I’m suspicious.

leonpaternoster

@aral Ta. Yes. And the more cutesy/cod-philosophical marketing copy obscuring that fact, the worse.