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The Arc Browser is getting new AI-powered features that try to browse the web for you

by California Digital News

Earlier this week, the team behind the Arc browser for Mac (and recently Windows) released a brand-new iPhone app called Arc Search. As you might expect, it’s infused with AI to power an experience where the app “browses for you”—pulling together a variety of sources of info across the internet to make a custom webpage to answer whatever questions you throw at it. That’s just one part of what The Browser Company is calling Act 2 of Arc, and the company gave details on three other major new features its bringing to the browser over the coming weeks and months.

The connective tissue of all these updates is that Arc is trying to blur the lines between a browser, search engine and website — the company wants to combine them all to make the internet a bit more useful to end users. In a promo video released today, various people from The Browser Company excitedly discuss a browser that can browse for you (an admittedly handy idea).

The Arc Search app showed off one implementation of that idea, and the next is a feature that arrives today called Instant Links. When you search for something, pressing shift and enter will tell Arc to search and automatically open the top result. This won’t have a 100 percent success rate, but there are definitely times when it comes in handy. One example Arc showed off was searching for “True Detective season 4 trailer” — pressing shift + enter automatically opened the trailer from YouTube in a new tab and started playing it.

You can easily get multiple results with this tool, too. I told it to “show me a folder of five different soup recipes” and Arc created a folder with five different tabs in for me to review. I also asked for the forecasts in Rome, Paris and Athens and got three pages with the details for each city. It’s handy, but I’m looking forward to Arc infusing it with more smarts than just simply pulling the “top” search result. (Side note: after testing this feature, my browser sidebar is awash with all kinds of nonsense. I’m glad Arc auto-closes things every day so I don’t have to sort it out.)

In a similar vein, the upcoming Live Folders feature will collect updates from sites you want to follow, like a sort of RSS feed. The idea is anticipating what sites someone is going to browse to and bring updated results into that folder. One example involved getting tagged in things on GitHub — each time that happened, a tab would be added to the folder with the new item. The demo on this feature was brief, but it should be available in beta on February 15th for further testing.

I got the sense from the video that developers would need to enable their sites to be updated via Live Folders, so it doesn’t seem like you can just add anything you want and expect it to work. In that way, it reminds me of some other Arc features like the one that lets you hover over a Gmail or Google Calendar tab to get a preview of your most recent messages or next appointment. Hopefully it’ll have the smarts to do things like drop new posts from your favorite site into the folder or open a new video from a YouTube channel you subscribe to, but we’ll have to wait to find out. (I also reached out to Arc for more details on how this might work and will update this story if I hear back.)

Finally, the last new feature here is also the most ambitious, and the one that most embodies that “browser that browses for you” vibe. Arc Explore, which the company says should be ready for testing in the next couple of months, uses LLMs to try and collapse the browser, search engine and site into a singular experience. In practice, this feels similar to what Arc is already doing with its new browser, but more advanced. One example the company gave involved making a restaurant reservation — starting with a query of wanting to make a reservation at one of a couple different restaurants, the Arc Explore interface brought back a bunch of details on each location alongside direct links to the Resy pages to book a table for two at exactly the time specified.

Arc Browser

Another demo showed off how using Arc Explore can be better than just searching and clicking on results. It centered around soup, as all good demos do. Having Arc Explore bring up details on a certain kind of soup immediately provided details like ingredient lists, direct recipe steps and of course related videos. Compared to the pain of browsing a lot of sites that get loaded down with autoplaying ads, videos, unrelated text and more distractions, the Arc Explore experience does feel pretty serene. Of course, that’s only when it brings back the results relevant to you. But using a LLM, you can converse with Arc to get closer to what you’re looking for.

After using Arc Search on my iPhone, I can appreciate what The Browser Company is going for here — at the same time, though, breaking my old habits on how I browse the internet is no small thing. That means these tools are going to need to work pretty well when they launch if they’re going to supplant the years I’ve spent putting things into a Google box and finding the results I want. But that sums up the whole philosophy and the point behind Arc: to shake up these habits in an effort to make a better browsing experience. Not all these experiments will stick, and others will probably mutate a lot from these initial ideas, but I’m definitely interested in seeing how things evolve from here.

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