It seems to me like new browsers are very popular at the moment. I love that this means a Change is probably coming, it's about time.

I've oscillated a little through web browsers in the roughly two and a half decades(!) I've been a "netizen", but they've almost always been tied to my OS. I've literally just started using Arc, and I'm already adoring it.

A screenshot of the Arc browser, viewing the homepage of this blog.

Why do I like it so quickly? It's extremely well designed; the novel choice to put a border around the viewport makes web pages feel like something to be appreciated again, the vertical tab bar—and the choice to archive any non-pinned tabs when you close that window—makes it easy to find what you're looking for and keep only what you need, the "Little Arc" windows really feel like peeking into other websites while keeping focus on the original one, and a thousand other choices made for your enjoyment.

I'll write more after using it for a while but, weirdly, the one thing that's made me love it more than anything else? The 'make Arc your default browser' dialog offered "Yes", "No", and "Let me try it for a week". Very smart, and just what I wanted.

The 'Little Arc' browser windows make it really easy to dip into a site quickly, from another webpage, or another app.

Writing this got me reminiscing; it's not a lens I thought I'd ever use to look back on my life to date, but here we go…

My history in browsers

I started on the world wide web with Netscape. It sat on my school's Apple Macintoshes and you could find me, too frequently, seeking the arcane knowledge of the world. I remember my first HTML(3) was written on one of those macs, I think I also had a Geocities site (I've never been able to find it in the archives though). Doors opened, potential oozed everywhere — I'm pretty sure that's where all this started for me!

A very old version of Internet Explorer with so many toolbar browser extensions the web page is only a few pixels high.

Who could forget how everything you installed also required you add a new IE browser toolbar.

I switched Internet Explorer when Windows 95 came to my family home, and the school library gained three new computers. I was building web 1.0 sites fairly often by this point, I cringe at the thought of most of them (for the content and at my lack of awareness), but the notepad.exe written HTML was glorious.

I swapped to Firefox at University, as I converted the aging computer I'd built to Arch Linux. It's so funny looking at some of the angsty passive aggression I expressed towards Internet Explorer, and it's finicky requirements!

A screenshot of HTML I wrote, with a paragraph of text saying: "Oh dear. You seem to be using Internet Explorer. I'm going to be straight with you. Internet Explorer is one of the big black misery holes in my life. I don't really have time to make my little web projects fit in with Microsoft's need to adhere to their own standards, rather than the ones set by the international 'world wide web consortium' (or w3c). Internet Explorer (even IE8, the latest version) is the only modern browser that doesn't display SVG images, which is exactly what Project Prime depends on. Seeing as you're using internet explorer you wouldn't see anything at all! I do apologise that you can't view our creation in your browser, but please, please consider moving to a browser that doesn't make web developers' lives hell! Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome and Opera are all superlative browsers and they all will get you viewing Project Prime the way it's supposed to look.

Then came relative stability for me; my parents, seeing my obvious passion for computing, gave me an intel macbook for my 21st birthday, and I've been in that ecosystem ever since. The clean experience of Safari quickly gave way to Google Chrome as I discovered the power of Chrome DevTools while building websites.

My only brief time away from Chrome since then was to Brave, a Chromium-based browser (with basically all the same features) that was (is?) doing some really interesting things in attempting to move the web away from advertising as its main source of revenue. I loved that idea (and still do), but I ultimately disagreed with the idea of replacing existing adverts with your own to feed your own business. I never did like cuckoos.

It's interesting to note that the browser my phone uses has broadly been unimportant. They all do basically the same thing, with the only partially valuable feature being the syncing of tabs between devices (which no-one seems to have 'gotten right' yet).

Perhaps Arc is my next browser of choice, only time will tell.