Testing the Arc browser

April 21, 2023    Article    1095 words    6 mins read

TLDR: Arc browser is not a bad browser, it’s just something that will spread your data everywhere (read Google) and is highly tuned for the modern web (bleah). You need to have an account to “activate” the browser but once logged in you can block all the Google/Arc connections and it will work without them. I will definitely use it as an secondary browser for Mozilla Firefox. Later edit: I stopped using both Arc and Firefox.

Arc is one of those apps that has grown on me over the last few weeks, it’s a refreshing take on a web browser. Frankly, until I ran into Arc, I didn’t think a browser can be this much fun and filled with delightful touches, yet so intuitive. That doesn’t mean it’s a good (or bad) browser, it’s just a Chromium reskin with some cool features. Also, it’s macOS only, for now.

I hate to admit that I severely dislike (not to say hate, but yes, I hate it) their tagline “Are you ready to let go of the old internet?” No, I’m not, and we should embrace the old internet instead of the shithole we have right now.

We love the internet, but we don’t love when internet companies prioritize profit over privacy. That’s why we built a browser to make the internet better, not make money off your personal data. source

The Arc browser is based on Chromium (Arc version 0.100.0-38417 is based on Chromium 112.0.5615.137).

Keep in mind that you need an account to actually use a web browser, which is a first, the Silicon Valley cancer keeps spreading and spreading. The Arc browser uses a sidebar where you can manage tabs, essential controls, bookmarks, and some additional features. For instance, the sidebar gives you quick access to your recent downloads or selected library locations. As mentioned before, Arc is a Chromium-based browser, which means you can use almost all your favorite Chrome extensions with this web browser. More importantly, some aspects and the naming system within Arc are similar to the ones in Chrome.

Arc browser boasts very fast browsing thanks to its improved rendering engine, it is designed to load web pages faster, which helps improve the overall user experience. Moreover, the browser’s tabs can be put to sleep when not in use to increase the overall browsing speed.

Arc introduces the concept of spaces, where you can have multiple spaces for different purposes such as work, entertainment, studies, etc. Having multiple spaces you can move between is more effective than having multiple web browser windows open.

You can also use the improved bookmarking system to manage the sites you frequently visit. The New Tab button on Arc functions more like Spotlight search, meaning you can access almost every aspect of the browser.

We’ve raised over $17 million dollars from a diverse group that includes the founders of Instagram, Stripe, Twitter, Zoom, Figma, and LinkedIn. source

Ad blocking (comes with uBlock Origin installed) and tracker blocking is another highlight of Arc. This feature addresses the growing concerns about data confidentiality on the Internet, specifically, the browser prevents third-party advertisers from tracking users’ online activities so that users can safely browse the Internet without worrying about the theft or unlawful tracking of their sensitive personal data.

Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk!

Direct download URL
Version: 0.100.0-38417
Connections: 44

On first start up:

  • content.arc.net on TCP port 443
  • clientstream.launchdarkly.com on TCP port 443
  • mobile.launchdarkly.com on TCP port 443
  • releases.arc.net on TCP port 443
  • on UDP port 1900
  • update.googleapis.com on TCP port 443
  • edgedl.me.gvt1.com on TCP port 80
  • www.googleapis.com on TCP port 443

After logging in, several other connections are established:

  • google.com on TCP port 443
  • firestore.googleapis.com on TCP port 443
  • www.google.com on TCP port 443
  • accounts.google.com on TCP port 443
  • www.gstatic.com on TCP port 443
  • lh3.googleusercontent.com on TCP port 443
  • fonts.gstatic.com on TCP port 443
  • releases.arc.net on TCP port 443
  • firestore.googleapis.com on TCP port 443
  • play.google.com on TCP port 443
  • accounts.youtube.com on TCP port 443
  • googlehosted.l.googleusercontent.com on TCP port 443
  • fonts.gstatic.com on TCP port 443
  • safebrowsing.googleapis.com on TCP port 443
  • chrome.google.com on TCP port 443
  • clients2.googleusercontent.com on TCP port 443
  • sb-ssl.google.com on TCP port 443
  • ublockorigin.pages.dev on TCP port 443
  • clients2.google.com on TCP port 443
  • cdn.statically.io on TCP port 443
  • cdn.jsdelivr.net on TCP port 443
  • pgl.yoyo.org on TCP port 443
  • publicsuffix.org on TCP port 443
  • ublockorigin.github.io on TCP port 443
  • malware-filter.gitlab.io on TCP port 443
  • twitter.com on TCP port 443
  • abs.twimg.com on TCP port 443
  • video.twimg.com on TCP port 443
  • abs-0.twimg.com on TCP port 443
  • pbs.twimg.com on TCP port 443
  • calendar.google.com on TCP port 443
  • workspace.google.com on TCP port 443
  • csp.withgoogle.com on TCP port 443
  • apis.google.com on TCP port 443
  • storage.googleapis.com on TCP port 443
  • securetoken.googleapis.com on TCP port 443

How hard can it be to make a toggle on startup “YES, I NEED TWITTER SUPPORT BECAUSE MELON HUSK IS MY GOD AND I BOW TO NO MAN, WOMAN OR CHILD EXCEPT THE MUSKYMAN!” and after an unfortunate human being clicks it you start pinging the Twitter domains, and not before that? Same thing for Google. Really, I was under the impression that the people behind Arc worked on Firefox and Chrome, and not Glovo or Onlyhookers.

Shots fired!

You can select any search engine between Google, Yahoo and Bing, so not many options there (you can add more from the Chromium settings if you manage to figure a quick way to go there).

Privacy-wise, my suggestion is to login once, let Arc setup itself and the user profile, close it and block all connections (or disconnect from the Internet). Open it again, go to Arc settings and browser settings (yes, they’re separate) and disable all the Google services. Once you do that, the network chatter becomes way less significant and you get to control who gets your browser data.

Network connections after logging in with a tuned profile; even if you block those, the browser will work just fine:

  • securetoken.googleapis.com on TCP port 443
  • clientstream.launchdarkly.com on TCP port 443
  • firestore.googleapis.com on TCP port 443
  • on UDP port 1900

In conclusion, you probably know by now that I’m not a fan of the modern web, I am a big fan of relatively-small websites, personal blogs, and any website that is free of the usual bloat. So there is this part of me that will always fall back to a more traditional web browser like Firefox.

However, there are definitely features of Arc that while may be fun for others, made my use more difficult than it needed to be.