The niche web browser Arc has taken its ‘customize the web’ approach to a new level with Arc Search – an app which aims to be a web browser, search engine, and AI chatbot in one.

It represents the company’s vision of the future of how we’ll search the internet, and will eventually be the company’s only mobile app …

A quick recap on Arc

If you’re not familiar with the Arc browser, that’s not too surprising. While the company has been doing some interesting things, its web browser is still very much a niche app – especially as the mobile app has been little more than a companion app to the desktop browser.

While other browsers let you set themes affecting the look of the browser app itself, Arc took this to the next level, allowing you to control the look of the actual websites you visit.

Web browsers that aren’t Safari have long offered the ability to customize their look with themes. For example, the frame and buttons from Chrome and Firefox can look different with custom colors and other ways of personalizing their windows. Now Arc from The Browser Company wants to bring that same level of customization to the web […]

The new feature is part of Boost 2.0 within the Arc browser. The new version of Boost lets you customize colors of elements on web pages while also setting your own font. This goes beyond what some extensions do to add a dark mode preference to light mode websites. You can basically become the web designer for your favorite sites.

Arc Search aims to do the searching for you

With Arc Search, the company is not just blurring the boundary between a browser and a website, but is effectively a single app which combines a browser, the web, and AI chatbots, as The Verge reports.

A few minutes ago, I opened the new Arc Search app and typed, “What happened in the Chiefs game.” That game, the AFC Championship, had just wrapped up. Normally, I’d Google it, click on a few links, and read about the game that way. But in Arc Search, I typed the query and tapped the “Browse for me” button instead.

Arc Search, the new iOS app from The Browser Company, which has been working on a browser called Arc for the last few years, went to work. It scoured the web — reading six pages, it told me, from Twitter to The Guardian to USA Today — and returned a bunch of information a few seconds later. I got the headline: Chiefs win. I got the final score, the key play, a “notable event” that also just said the Chiefs won, a note about Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, a bunch of related links, and some more bullet points about the game.

Basically, instead of returning a bunch of search queries about the Chiefs game, Arc Search built me a webpage about it. And somewhere in there is The Browser Company’s big idea about the future of web browsers — that a browser, a search engine, an AI chatbot, and a website aren’t different things. They’re all just parts of an internet information finder, and they might as well exist inside the same app.

9to5Mac’s Take

I’ve only played with it briefly, and so far it suffers from the two biggest problems of AI-powered search summaries.

First, it mixes reliable information with things that are just plain wrong. Which makes the summary almost useless, as you can’t trust it without checking its sources.

Which is the second problem: While Arc Search does list the websites it searched, it doesn’t link to the specific pages it searched, so you can’t easily vet those sources. The websites it chooses as sources are also rather random.

For me, then, this is a non-starter in its current incarnation. But it’s still noteworthy because I do think this is the direction web searches are headed, and I think the company (quaintly named The Browser Company of New York Inc) is probably ahead of its time in aiming to integrate everything within a single app. Indeed, if Apple didn’t have that lucrative contract with Google, it feels like the sort of thing the iPhone maker might do.

Right now, though, it’s a little too far ahead of its time. I’ll be following its development with interest, but won’t be using it for my own searches anytime soon.

Image: 9to5Mac composite | Background by Krisztian Tabori on Unsplash

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