A rainbow over the Ringing Singing Tree near Burnley in Lancashire, UK.
PHOTO: Rob

When you think web browser, you might think Chrome. More people use Chrome than any other browser. In fact, more people use Chrome than Safari, Firefox and Edge combined.

Last year, however, when Apple claimed it would force app developers to disclose data collection particulars, Chrome privacy concerns began to heat up. The public discovered Chrome collects more user data than any other browser. Information like financial details, your precise location, everything you do online and anything you type into the address bar — even if you don’t hit enter. It then links that data to your user identity, allowing advertisers to target you better. 

Amid this upheaval, Arc came into the spotlight — a new browser promising to keep users focused, organized and in control.

What Is the Arc Browser?

Arc is an internet browser released in 2022 by the Browser Company, a team of alums from Instagram, Google Chrome, Snap, Slack, Pinterest and more. The platform is currently invite-only, meaning those who want to use it must add their email address to a waiting list.

A web browser is like your home on the internet, Josh Miller, the Browser Company’s co-founder and CEO, told Slack Fund’s Jason Spinell. “Your professional life, personal life, side projects, news and media — everything is on the internet.” 

That’s why Arc has different spaces for different things — much like different rooms within a home, he said. And users have complete control over how those spaces look. 

“It’s less about our own team’s super opinionated takes on what’s right, and more about building simple tools that let people create their own workspace on the internet,” said Miller.

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Is Arc Built on Chrome?

The Arc web browser runs on the same Chromium engine — an open-source browser project — as Google Chrome. 

Arc uses the same history page, autofill capabilities and supports Chrome extensions. Unfortunately, it also has some of Chrome’s freezing and crashing issues when too many tabs are open. 

But the similarities end there. Beyond the look of the new browser, which is much different than Chrome, Arc claims it does not track which websites you visit, can’t see what you type into your browser — whether you hit enter or not — and doesn’t sell your data to third parties. 

What Does Arc Look Like?

Arc does not look the same as Chrome, Safari or really any other internet browser out there. 

The biggest difference is that all activity and navigation on Arc happen from a left sidebar instead of at the top.

The main page when you open Arc.

This left sidebar is where you can find:

  • Spaces: Each space is like its own window, each with tabs and folders.
  • Today tabs: These are regular tabs that line up on the left sidebar. You can open as many as you want.
  • Pinned tabs: These tabs stay pinned on your sidebar for easier access. They stay open even when you close and re-open Arc.
  • Favorites: These are saved tabs that pin to the top of your sidebar. You can access them on every space and use keyboard shortcuts to open them.
  • Easels: These are blank canvases where you can drop images, text, arrows, links and more to visualize ideas. You can create more than one easel at a time.
  • Notes: These blank notepads allow you to type in plain text or use rich text formatting.

The left sidebar is also where you access the Arc Library. This Library keeps all of your projects and files — notes, easels, downloaded files, screenshots, etc. — in a single location.

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What Are Some of Arc’s Top Features?

Arc is a feature-rich platform with noticeable differences from other browsers.

The Command Bar

The command bar is separate from your left panel, but it’s another place where you can perform actions. It’s also your go-to place to change settings. You can access it by hitting Command + T.

The command bar within the Arc browser.

With the command bar, you can:

  • Search through tabs
  • Open a new tab
  • Clear all today tabs
  • Navigate to a previous page
  • Activate browser extensions
  • Open split view
  • Open up developer tools
  • Open the Arc Library
  • Send in a bug report or feedback

Split View

Open and view up to four panels at the same time within Arc. You can look at tabs, notes and easels side-by-side to simplify tasks and improve usability.

The split view function within the Arc Browser.

The left sidebar remains visible when you use this feature, making it easy to open new tabs, pin tabs, find favorites and navigate elsewhere, no matter how many panels you’re looking at.

Screenshots

You don’t need an extension or other program to take screenshots on Arc — the browser has a built-in tool. You can also edit the screenshot (such as crop out a section) within Arc, meaning no unnecessary downloads that clutter your trash bin.

One interesting Arc feature is live screenshots. You create these images by clicking the camera icon on the URL bar and editing the snipped area. Once added to an easel, the screenshot updates as the website updates.

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Boosts

Boosts are like Arc’s version of extensions, except you make them yourself. And it’s possible to do so with little to no coding knowledge.

You can create a new boost by clicking the plus button at the bottom of the left sidebar or within the command bar.

The boost feature within the Arc browser.

You can choose between four options:

  • Style: Change the look of a page, including colors and fonts.
  • Replace: Replace content on a page or website with something else.
  • Inject: Add your own content or features to a website.
  • Custom: Create a completely custom extension.

You can apply boosts to a specific website or every page you visit. For instance, if you have a hard time reading small text, you might create a boost that bumps up the font size on every website.

Keyboard Shortcuts

You can find a keyboard shortcut for anything in Arc — and all shortcuts are customizable. Because the browser is Mac-focused, the shortcuts align with Apple keyboards.

For example, you can use:

  • Command + S: Shows or hides the left sidebar.
  • Command+Tab: Lets you cycle through open tabs.
  • Command + Shift + C: Copies the page’s URL to your clipboard (while removing trackers in the URL).
  • Command + Option + N: Opens up Little Arc, a mini version of Arc for quick searches.

iCloud Syncing

Arc uses iCloud to sync across your Macs, meaning you can switch between multiple computers and still see the same setup — open tabs, pinned tabs, spaces and all.

Unfortunately, because Arc is not yet available on mobile, you can’t download it to an iPhone. It’s also unclear if syncing capabilities will be included on the Windows version of Arc.

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Is Arc Only for Mac?

Right now, Arc is only available for Mac. But the Browser Company says it’s working on an Arc browser for Windows, along with mobile device versions.

On Nov. 4, Steve Kirbach, an engineer at The Browser Company, shared a demo of Arc for Windows on Twitter, saying, “Windows is coming!”

Steve Kirbach from the Browser Company tweet on Arc Windows version.

How to Download Arc

You can’t download and start using Arc instantly. Because the platform is still in its early stages, those who want to sign up must add their email to a waiting list. Once a spot is ready, you’ll receive an email with a link to sign up.

To add yourself to the waiting list, go to the Arc homepage at arc.net. In the upper right-hand corner, click the button that says “Try it for yourself.”

From there, you’ll enter your email address, answer a question about your primary desktop OS (Mac, Windows or Linux) and hit submit.

Those who use a Mac computer are more likely to receive an invite before Windows users, as the Windows version of Arc is not yet available. 

Is Arc Safe to Use?

Arc is as safe as other common internet browsers. But you should always exercise caution online when giving out private information, such as your financial details, address, phone number, etc.

Arc’s privacy policy is available online to those who want to learn more about its personal data collection and privacy procedures.

This policy outlines:

  • What data they collect
  • How they collect that data
  • Why they collect that data
  • In what circumstances they share that data

Ultimately, Arc collects less data than Chrome — though it’s on par with Safari and Firefox. It claims it doesn’t track user activity through cookies and has a built-in ad blocker. It also offers settings that limit the information collected by the websites you visit.

Will Arc Become a Mainstay in the Web Browser Market?

Those who’ve used Arc have a lot of great things to say. The creative features and customizability ultimately give users more control over their web browsing experience.

The new browser does come with some downsides, though. It’s only available for Mac, and there’s a waitlist to use it (and invitations might take a while to arrive). There’s also a learning curve when it comes to the new design.

Ultimately, though, the biggest challenge could be the Browser Company's plan to tap into premium paid features, a future subscription model for enterprise clients with a tentative price tag of $12 per month.

The question will come down to: Are people (or companies) willing to pay for an internet browser, especially when free and more popular browsers exist?