New Chrome alternatives for 2022: Arc, SigmaOS, Sidekick, Orion
If you need proof that people are tired of Google Chrome, just look at the new generation of web browsers that are springing up to replace it.
They are not simple copies of Chrome. Instead, newcomers like Arc, SigmaOS, and Sidekick rethink the fundamentals of navigation, with radically different interfaces for organizing your tabs and getting the job done.
They are also rethinking business models based on web advertising along the way. Unlike other alternative browsers such as Vivaldi and Firefox, these browsers do not rely on search engine offers, sponsored bookmarks or other forms of advertising to make money, and they all offer the ad and tracker blocking as table setting features.
Why now? With the shift to remote working, we’re spending more time than ever using web browsers on our personal computers and laptops, but traditional browsers are ill-equipped to handle the kind of powerful web apps and in-depth research that modern office work requires. Yet mainstream browsers like Chrome don’t have much incentive to shake up their interfaces or disrupt their own tried-and-true business models.
This has created an opening for a wave of upstart browsers, trying to appeal to users who want something different.
“Most browsing companies make money by monetizing your search and attention,” says Dmitry Pushkarev, CEO and co-founder of Sidekick. “They have very little incentive to invest in features and tools that make you more relaxed, more productive, less chaotic.”
Here’s a look at some of the most promising new browsers that have launched recently:
SigmaOS: tabs as tasks
SigmaOS reinvents your tabs as a sort of to-do list, with a vertical tab layout as the only option. Instead of closing web pages, you can either mark them as “done” or snooze them for later.
SigmaOS also eschews multiple browser windows in favor of “workspaces”, which are groups of tabs you can switch between via a side menu. (The browser offers a split-screen view if you need to view two pages at once.) Keyboard shortcuts also play a major role, with the backslash key opening a universal search bar for open tabs, spaces work, your browsing history and web search.
The resulting experience presents a learning curve for new users, but with practice the idea is that you can get into a sort of rhythm, going through each workspace until there’s nothing left. nothing on your to-do list.
Mahyad Ghassemi, founder and CEO of SigmaOS, says the browser is gaining traction among startup operators, content creators and student researchers, though he doesn’t reveal the number of users.
“These are the people who most need to multi-task and do a lot of different work at the same time, but can’t afford to lose focus or time,” says Ghassemi.
Platforms: macOS. An iOS version “may or may not” be on the roadmap.
Business model: An $8 per month “Personal Pro” plan unlocks unlimited workspaces, cross-device syncing, and an ad blocker.
Sidekick: all about apps
Sidekick starts with the bones of Google’s open-source Chromium browser and adds a layer of productivity features on top.
A persistent sidebar, for example, lets you switch between web apps like Gmail, Notion, Dropbox, and Trello, and you can expand the sidebar further to organize open tabs into groups or “sessions.” Meanwhile, a universal search bar lets you quickly browse all your apps, web pages, and online documents from one place.
But some of Sidekick’s cleverest ideas are also the easiest to miss: there’s a button to turn off all browser notifications and unread badges, a Ctrl-Tab shortcut to switch between recent tabs, and a button to the menu bar that opens two pages in a split view.
Pushkarev says Sidekick hides some of its complexities initially, so as not to scare off new users accustomed to Chrome. Despite all the extra features, Sidekick still feels lightweight thanks to built-in ad blocking and a recent overhaul of its underlying code.
For now, Sidekick relies mainly on word of mouth for its growth and has tens of thousands of users, but Pushkarev says 7% of them are paid subscribers. He thinks Sidekick can build strong subscription business by making the browser less stressful for knowledge workers.
“I don’t expect Sidekick to replace Chrome, and it never was,” he says. “What we hope to achieve is to change the 1-2% of users for the better. . . which depend on the browser to do their job.
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, Linux
Business model: A $12-per-month “Pro” plan removes sidebar app limits and adds additional features, such as custom apps and a split-screen view.
Arc: an ambitious redesign
Of all the attempts to reinvent the web browser, Arc seems the most polished. Almost all of its features are grouped together in a left side menu, where you’ll find the address bar, navigation buttons, and a list of vertical tabs. But while it’s nothing like Chrome, it’s packed with little user-friendly touches that make the new design approachable.
Start playing music on a site like Spotify, for example, and a mini-player will appear at the bottom of the sidebar. Switch tabs while playing a video and a picture-in-picture mode will appear automatically. Hover your cursor over your tabs for Gmail or Google Calendar, and you’ll see a small preview of any unread messages or upcoming events. Drag a tab onto the current web page and it will open in a split-screen view.
Arc is the product of a startup called The Browser Company, which has raised over $13 million in venture capital according to Protocoland it only recently stopped tying its beta testers to a nondisclosure agreement.
This means I can say that Arc is the neo-browser I’ve enjoyed using the most so far, but it’s also the biggest wildcard. It doesn’t have a business model yet, and it’s engaged in a lot of weird experiments on top of the main browser, such as shareable web albums called Easels and a webpage editing tool called Boosts. It’s hard to shake the feeling that The Browser Company might pivot or sell once its VC backers start looking for a return on their sizable investments.
Platforms: Mac for now, with Windows to come.
Business model: Still unclear.
Orion: Better for Everyone
If all of these alternative browsers seem a little too extreme, Orion might be the reboot you’ve been looking for.
Orion isn’t radically different from Apple’s Safari browser on the surface, retaining familiar features like the customizable toolbar and helpful tabs layout button. Still, it uses vertical tabs instead of horizontal ones – a nod to power users who’ve seen the light on tab management – and takes an even tougher stance on privacy, blocking all ads and trackers. by default and not collecting any telemetry from users.
Creator Vlad Prelovac insisted on using Apple’s Webkit rendering engine for Orion, noting that its MacOS optimizations make it faster and much more battery efficient than Chrome and Chromium-based browsers. But it also wanted to support Chrome and Firefox extensions. So he’s spent the past few years integrating the necessary APIs to make this possible.
Prelovac’s mission isn’t just to build a better all-around browser than Chrome or Safari, but to rewrite the underlying contract of the web. Orion is funded by optional subscriptions, which don’t unlock any new features but promise greater influence over the future direction of the browser.
Prelovac’s company, Kagi, is also developing a private search engine of the same name, with the same client model, and users can optionally set it as the default search engine in Orion. The Kagi search engine has “thousands” of donors, Prelovac says, and Orion has attracted more than 100 donors since launching in public beta a month ago. The boss model, he says, helps ensure that Kagi’s goals are a perfect match with those of its users.
“It’s part of a new wave, where people are saying no to the current state of the web, which is completely ad-centric,” he says.
Platforms: MacOS and iOS
Business model: Optional monthly or annual donations
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