Browsers are for browsing
Not for making
The browser is the most used tool on your computer. It is a window with limitless capabilities. In this single window, you can browse the web, compose emails, design the next addicting product, or animate scenes in web-based animation software. The browser is the "do it all" tool. The browser was not always like this.
When the browser was first created it was solely used for browsing. You used it to search the web and gather information. There were some minimal doctoring capabilities, but most of your creation, your personal or professional work, happened in other software on your computer. Now all of that is a tab away. While that is wonderful for accessibility, it is also detrimental.
Having everything one tab away has its benefits, but after a year of stress-testing the theory, I have decided that the benefits don't outweigh the negatives.
I initially brought up this topic after The Browser company explained their vision for the web browser. I was skeptical, but I pressure-tested it nonetheless.
Using the browser as the everything tool means a lack of focus. This is something we need less of, not more of as a society. Since the conception of the modern TV and then the computer, we lack the ability to focus more than ever. Having the ability to switch at a moment's notice is detrimental. Tools need focus, they need constraints. By having constraints, there is a line in the sand of what you can and should do with them. It means you launch a tool for its purpose and keep it open until you get that purpose completed.
Living in the browser for all your things means companies can collect infinite data about you. They can tell where you come from to get to their web app. They can tell where you go to after leaving it. They can tell how and where you click and how long you stay on a screen or a section. While this data is a treasure trove to the salesperson, marketer, designer, or product manager – it is invasive to the person actually using it.
Both of these overarching problems are multiplied with the dawn of AI. Now there are endless alerts for you to try the next groundbreaking feature of AI. While I appreciate a tool trying to make me more efficient, writing a shitty paragraph or searching with "natural language" is not helpful. Not only is this annoying, but the use of AI in these tools means that AI is using your questions, your prompts to build its models.
There are some good things about keeping things in the browser. The main thing is democracy. Not in a political way, but democratizing access to technology. Since most tools are web-based, they can be more affordable or free – even if that is not exactly true. This means that people have more opportunities to change their lives with little to no financial cost.
There is also the fact that we are less dependent on hardware. To me, this falls into a gray area. Having everything on the web means that it is, well, on the web. You don't have it on a piece of physical hardware anymore. Your important information lives on someone else's computer in a data center. While this is convenient it means you don't really own it. This also means we aren't as worried about the hardware from which we access these cloud files from, because the cloud does most of the computing, our devices just interpret the output and trigger an input. I am still very much a hardware person. I appreciate the speed in which my beautiful MacBook can achieve and I want to be rewarded for it. Having files live 100% on the web doesn't feel rewarding.
I really have given it a blind try. I have even used Arc, from The Browser Company almost exclusively for this year. I do love what they have built. I just don't agree with the present and future that society has paved. We should not be using a do-it-all tool. We should be using dozens of apps, natively built for the hardware we are using.
Using dedicated software means that we will slow down, be more intentional, and focus. We will depend on ourselves and foster deeper learning. We will remember why the browser is called the browser. It was conceived for finding information, not making it.