The Arc browser arrives on Windows to take on Chrome and Edge

The Arc browser arrives on Windows to take on Chrome and Edge
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The excellent Arc browser that’s been impressing macOS and iOS users over the past couple of years is finally making its way to Windows today. Arc is designed to change the way you use a browser in many fundamental ways, with a collapsible sidebar that combines vertical tabs and bookmarks into an app switcher-like experience, a command bar for navigation, and useful tools to help you browse the web.

The company behind Arc, aptly named The Browser Company, is betting on its browser being different enough to entice Windows users away from Chrome and Edge. “Arc really is just calming and keeps you organized,” says Hursh Agrawal, co-founder of The Browser Company, in an interview with The Verge. “It helps you handle your tasks during the day better.”

As someone who is hooked on Chrome, it has been a jarring but rewarding experience to use Arc. Once you get used to the Arc way of doing things, the idea of a sidebar instead of a row of tabs or just the ability to remove all the browser clutter and focus on a single website feels like a refreshing approach to the way we use the web today. Arc is also built on top of Chromium, so websites just work and you can bring your extensions along for the ride.

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Arc for Windows is also a significant step in a far bigger vision for what The Browser Company calls “the operating system for the internet” — this idea that Arc is an entire platform for the open web that goes beyond just a browser. Arc for Windows is an important milestone for this vision, not least because The Browser Company has also helped bring Swift, the programming language created by Apple for building iOS and Mac apps, to Windows.

Arc on Windows is built using Swift, and software engineers at The Browser Company have helped largely open source all of the fundamental infrastructure for building Windows applications with Swift. Saleem Abdulrasool, a member of the Swift core team and a software engineer at The Browser Company, has spent more than six years working on bringing Swift to Windows. “I am so excited about this,” says Abdulrasool in an interview with The Verge. “Finally seeing something come to fruition after so long is truly something. It’s really an effort of love.”

The release of Arc on Windows, thanks to Swift, could encourage other developers to follow a similar path, especially in the wake of the White House urging software developers to use memory-safe programming languages like Swift instead of the C++ language that’s used to build Chrome and Edge. “We actually invite others to participate as well,” says Abdulrasool. “While we’re leading the charge we’re more than happy to have people come with us.”

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For all the impressive underpinnings of Arc, it still needs to be good enough to go up against Chrome, though. It’s literally marketed as “the Chrome replacement you’ve been waiting for” after all, so there’s a lot riding on this Windows release. The Browser Company will also have to contend with Microsoft’s aggressive attempts to switch Windows users to Edge as well as dethroning Chrome, a challenge unlike those any browser entrant has faced over the past decades of competition.

For Darin Fisher, it’s the latest challenge in a long line of building web browsers that disrupt the status quo. Fisher joined The Browser Company in late 2022. His career started at Netscape in the early 2000s before he helped turn Navigator into Firefox and then spent 16 years building Chrome and ChromeOS.

Fisher argues that there’s a gap in the marketplace for Arc and that rival browsers have become stagnant. “I saw the transition at Google when people went from everybody using Internet Explorer and Firefox to suddenly people using Chrome,” says Fisher in an interview with The Verge. Internet Explorer had gotten stagnant and Chrome struck at the perfect time with a better product. That’s what The Browser Company is hoping to replicate.

It’s also trying to do that with new tools. “How do you deal with this complexity of our lives? We need tools that help us meet where we are, that’s what Arc is all about,” says Darin. In the macOS version, you can customize webpages to change their color palette, play around with new AI features, or create shareable websites. Not all of these beloved features are making their way to the Windows release just yet, but the fundamentals, like the sidebar, Spaces, profiles, split view, and picture-in-picture, are all available to Windows users today.

Thankfully, Arc will continue to evolve every week, which will be important as the Windows release grows in terms of features to reach parity with the macOS version. “I think it’s scary for some people, but it improves every week,” says Agrawal. “People say it’s like receiving Christmas gifts every Thursday.”

The goal is to build up the Windows release and remove some of the Mac features that aren’t widely used until they’re at parity as one single app. “The experience [of Arc on Windows] is good, but it’s not there yet and we’re going to ship every week to get it to a place where it’s unbelievable,” admits Agrawal.

Most importantly, Arc on Windows doesn’t feel like a macOS app. The Browser Company has used Microsoft’s WinUI framework to follow the Fluent design language of Windows 11, and you can even adjust the window backdrop to Mica to match Arc’s background to your desktop or Acrylic for a transparent blur effect.

Arc for Windows will also only initially be supported on Windows 11, with plans for a Windows 10 version soon. And while Google launched a native ARM64 version of Chrome for Windows recently, Arc won’t be available natively for the upcoming round of Arm-powered Windows laptops this summer.

“We’ve already ported Swift to work on Windows ARM64, which means that it’s feasible for us to move to that,” explains Abdulrasool. “It’s something we’re investigating, but it wasn’t an immediate priority because a lot of people don’t have access to this hardware yet.”

The Arc for Windows release will also now sync to Arc Search, the iOS app that previously only worked with Arc for macOS. The Browser Company is also developing an Android version of Arc Search, so that will certainly help make Arc feel even more cross-platform.

Arc for Windows is available to download right now, and expect to see weekly changes as The Browser Company works toward parity between Windows and Mac.


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