Two sad browser stories

I’ve followed the Spicy Takes™️ surrounding the Arc Browser recently, that started in the Ruminate podcast and went on to the MacStories Weekly Issue 408.

And I agree with most of what John Voorhees is saying, and also Matt Birchler, who said: «The Browser Company feels gross to me right now».

Much of it is about ethics and AI. In general I agree with them, but this subject won’t be the focus of this post. (I’ve written more about AI here and here.)

Instead I’ll tell my browser story, and explain why both Arc and Firefox makes me sad.

I’ve been browsing for browsers

I avoided Arc for a long time because I really, really didn’t want to use a Chromium browser.

First, I used Safari for a while, which is fine. Then I used Orion, which was better, but a bit too buggy. 1 I also tried SigmaOS a bit, but at the time they wouldn’t let you change their hotkeys, and those default ones were terrible for my Norwegian layout.

My Firefox wish

Then, because I really want Mozilla and Gecko to exist, I spent a year trying to like Firefox. But it was very hard, and I failed miserably. It just feels like using a product where no one really cares about the user experience. I mean, which features, aimed at bettering this, have they shipped recently? 2

But I’m not saying that the developers doesn’t care! It just feels like they don’t have time to care — that the leadership hasn’t made it a priority. Mozilla recently downsized, and said that they’re refocusing on Firefox. 3 I hope they reach the conclusion, that the first step to compete, is to be the best browser.

I want to write a separate post, someday, on what I miss about Firefox. 4 But I’ll mention some things I like about Arc later, and know that Firefox has more or less nothing of this. Now, I get that The Browser Company is VC funded, and can just build on Chromium — but their team still isn’t that large. So my wish for the new Mozilla CEO, is to create a team and say: «OK, so you don’t have any responsibilities to the Gecko engine or our other services. Just make Firefox a joy to use — on every platform.» 5

Corruption Arc

In the podcast linked up top, Voorhees said he didn’t understand the hype around Arc, and that it just had a bunch of «animations that gets in the way». I agree that animations can get in the way — but when they’re well done, they make software a pleasure. For a great example, try to type, and move elements around, in Bike Outliner, by Jesse Grosjean, and tell me that’s not a truly special software experience.

I think Arc screams of being made by someone who cares about browsers and software quality. And I think that’s where they started, before being led astray by the lure of AI. It might not be a bad business move — but it’s not what I want, and the ethics, as both Voorhees and Birchler talk about, are very questionable.

It all started with what The Browser Company calls:

Arc II

And that started with this video:

This is the moment I felt the Browser Company and I started to drift apart.

The entire premise of Arc II, is that «browsing the web sucks», so they would like to do it for me. But I don’t agree — I like to browse the web — I just want a nice browser to do it in!

Now, they haven’t stopped shipping enjoyable features since this 6 — and I still think they care about being a nice browser. But I was grossed out enough by using a Chromium browser, and now they’re leaning into something that I’m not interested in and that I question the ethics behind…

I really have to think about if I can keep using the browser… While I do that, let me highlight why I like Arc so much. Maybe it can serve as inspiration to other browser makers?

Being a good browser

Looks and feel

I just think everything in arc looks good — like the border around the window and icons. And there are plenty of whimsical animations, that doesn’t get in the way and often helps in understanding what’s happening. There’s also completely useless stuff, like this:

Screenshot of Arc, where I’m adjusting the colours of my space.

When adjusting the dials on the theme on a trackpad, you get haptic feedback!

Very smooth shadows, and the top-left corner, which points to the thing it’s about, is less rounded than the others.

Great shadows on the pop-up, and a cute top-left corner.
GIF of the opening of the Downloads folder.

I’m a sucker for stuff like this.

  • The downloads icon animates,
  • the files come up smoothely
  • and the blur above the files looks great.

My Number of spaces/Tab bar width ratio is too high for it to show all the icons. They’ve solved this elegantly IMO, and I also like this animation.

Useful utilities

I can go «Back to Tab», play/pause, skip, adjust volume, and pop out to picture-in-picture.

Nice playback controls - for a tab in another space. I can also pop it out in their great picture in picture.

A large square covers up the mid 40 % of the screen, and says: «Search og Enter URL…». It also shows some of my latest tabs which I can switch to.

If you hit Cmd + T or Cmd + L (the latter won’t create a new tab), you’ll get this command bar. It’s pretty useful, but also just nice. (Notice the transparency.)

I’ve searched for «The new york times», and I can click «Instant Open» if I want.

They have an AI feature I like, and that I don’t think The New York Times minds either: If I hit Shift + Enter, it will go straight to the site it thinks you want. And since {my search engine} doesn’t earn money on my data or clicks, _it_ doesn’t mind this feature either!

A box that says «Copied Current URL».

Hitting Cmd + Shift + C copies the current URL without having to mark it in the address bar. The squares around the box, are more whimsical animations, and the share button opens the share sheet. That last detail is a perfect example of what I mean about _care_.

Same box, but text now says «Copied a clean link without trackers».

And yes, it even strips the trackers automatically!

Screenshot of the Boost Gallery. It says: Take a browse, and see how other Arc members are remixing their internets. If you don’t yet have Arc, try any Boost in this gallery to get early access. What are Boosts? Boosts are a new way to edit and remix your internet, and share it with friends. Boosts are created inside Arc, our new web browser! How do I create a Boost? Download Arc, isit the site you want to Boost, then click the paintbrush icon that appears inside the URL bar.

Boosts: A neat little feature, from when the focus whan on making browsing a joy - instead of doing it for me..


I love how easy it is to make and move between spaces, and that you can choose which of them share logins and not. Moving tabs between them, is also a breeze, and the haptic dials makes some good-looking themes.

Animation from Arc, showing off space themes.

I like the vertical tabs 7 — but I would be fine with just horizontal tabs in a browser if the spaces integration was on this level.

Animation from Arc, showing off changing spaces.

They also have notes and something they call easels — but I don’t use them personally.

Little Arc 🫶🏻

This little guy is my favourite Arc feature! If I hit a link while in another app, it opens a small-ish browser window, called Little Arc. In the example below, I was browsing Mona, and found a link I wanted to check out — and then I got this:

A The Verge article, called «Reddit goes public: the latest updates on its IPO». You see my name (Erlend) in the left part of the address bar, and «Open in Blogg» on the right side.

This is to avoid gunking up your current browser window.

Top left you can see that I’m currently on my personal profile (so logins etc. works in these little windows) — and only by hitting Cmd + O, will it be added to my current space («Blogg»). I can also send it to a different space.

GIF of me opening and closing the link above.
My favourite detail here, is that if I do two-finger swipe to «go back», it just closes the window, and sends me back to Mona.

I’ll stop now because this is only making me sad.

  • Sad, because it seems like Arc is moving away from what I like about it,
  • and sad because it’s still, by far, the best browser — but I’m not sure I «can» keep using it…

Maybe I’ll give SigmaOS another go, while I hope Firefox becomes nicer? 8 It looks like I can change the hotkeys now! 👌🏻

Maybe I’ll try Orion again?

Have you tried SigmaOS or Orion lately?

And are there any other nice browsers out there?

help plz

  1. However, that team also makes Kagi Search, which is amazing↩︎

  2. That wasn’t focused on pushing their own services, like Pocket, VPN and spoof emails. ↩︎

  3. And AI. 😔 ↩︎

  4. Come on, at least use the native macOS text engine! ↩︎

  5. Oh, and make it much easier for third parties to build on Gecko - which I’ve heard is a nightmare. ↩︎

  6. And I love how they always highlight the specific engineers who’s worked on a shipped feature! ↩︎

  7. Even though I wouldn’t mind them being in trees. ↩︎

  8. And, unlike Arc, they have a business model. ↩︎