Welcome back to the Browsertech Digest. This is issue #4.
Yesterday, Mighty founder Suhail Doshi announced a pivot from building a “Chrome in the cloud” browser and into building an AI-powered Adobe Creative Suite competitor.
Mighty started in 2019, and represents the vanguard of what I think of as the neobrowsers: upstart web browsers that treat the browser not as a tool of passive consumption, but instead embrace the browser’s role as an operating system of sorts for modern apps.
Mighty’s pitch was that a browser run in the cloud and streamed down to the desktop (a la Netflix) could outperform one running locally on the user’s machine. At a technical level, they proved that it could be done, but they didn’t find a large enough market.
In Suhail’s own words:
Much of the web is bound by single core performance of JS. The headwinds of the semi conductor industry are too strong to succeed at providing enough benefit for users. We could improve things by 2x but not 5-10x. Ok business, not mass market changing.
Although Mighty wasn’t a commercial success, it was technologically impressive. I salute Suhail and the team for what they built, and I’ll be keenly following their pivot into creative tools.
Whist is probably the browser most similar to Mighty in spirit. Pixel-streaming is also a central capability of Whist, but in contrast to Mighty, Whist allows you to turn streaming on or off on a per-tab basis. One advantage of this is that it can provide the user with fine-grained control of what is streamed and what isn’t.
Instead of having to dedicate server-side resources (including pricey GPUs) to every user with a running browser, Whist can allocate a cloud GPU only when certain sites are open.
Whist is enterprise-focused, with a value prop focused around security and isolation, as opposed to Mighty’s more performance-centric positioning.
At first glance, The Browser Company’s Arc browser is a Chromium fork with a modernized power-user, command-bar based UX (think Linear.app for your browser). The company’s ambitions go deeper than that, though, and they’ve managed to attract some impressive funding and a team that includes Darin Fisher, an original member of the Chrome team who has a ton of experience building browsers.
Sidekick appears to be going after a similar market to Arc. Both browsers move the tabs into a sidebar, include a command bar, and emphasize repatriating Electron-based apps back into the browser.
Island and TalonWork are building enterprise-focused Chromium forks with additional isolation and enterprise policies.
During the browser wars, each browser had its own rendering engine, and top browsers had a strong moat against upstarts because:
These days, the most popular rendering engines are open-source. Upstart browsers can skip the part about building a rendering engine and go straight to building the functionality they want on top of Chromium.
While I don’t expect any of these browsers to supplant Chrome as a mainstream consumer browser, that’s not the point. Neobrowsers can satisfy demand for power-user/enterprise features that incumbents either aren’t incentivized to prioritize, or fear would alienate mainstream users.
Until next time,