On the dangers of relying on browsers controlled by corporations
[Tue Nov 8 16:53:56 CST 2022]

Yes, I know. Returning to the same topic, once again. I recently learned of the existence of The Browser Company, which is working on a new, supposedly very innovative, browser, difficult as that may be to believe. And, while perusing the news about it, I came across a piece from The Verge on Darin Fisher, the project lead for the Arc browser. Apparently, he was a software engineer with Netscape, then moved onto Firefox and Mozilla, and then Google Chrome. In other words, we are dealing with someone with plenty of experience developing browsers and, more to the point, dealing with the companies that make them. And, to me, that is precisely the most interesting part of the article. For example:

But the even more intractable problem, at least for the Chrome team, is that building a great web browser isn’t Google’s only goal. Chrome exists in large part to put a search engine front and center, which Fisher describes to me as like “a brick wall” for all kinds of browser innovation. “Anything we did that helps you get back to what you were doing, it means you weren’t searching, right?” Fisher says. Better tab management means less searching; sending you straight to the page you want means fewer search results and fewer ad impressions. Making you close your tabs and reopen them all the time isn’t just acceptable for Chrome; it’s a victory. Fisher and his team had lots of UI ideas and new features, but “all these good ideas die on the floor.”


In some ways, though, mobile represents an even harder surface on which to make progress. Because Apple and Google so tightly control their operating systems, there’s no way to build a Chromium browser and ship it to people’s smartphones. Android and iOS are both so focused on native apps that they seem to have largely left the browser behind. But here, too, there’s energy in the other direction. As Apple, in particular, continues to lock down the OS and try to extract even more revenue from developers and users, the web is an increasingly useful solution. Microsoft built game streaming that works in Safari; you can pay for apps in a browser without giving Apple 30 percent.

In general, I'm excited about the fact that there are so many browsers out there right now. On the other hand, I'm not so excited about the fact that the vast majority of them rely on Chrome's rendering engine, which means that we are perhaps closer than ever to a semi-monopolistic situation. Sure, on the surface, it looks as if there are many browsers. But many of them rely on the same rendering engine underneath which, in turn, is controlled by Google. Scary. Anyways, I signed up to give this new browser a try. But I continue supporting Firefox, and using it daily. Mainly because I believe in what it represent. Well, also because it is good technology, to be honest. {link to this entry}