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Arch's new Boost feature lets you change the way any website looks

Arch's new Boost feature lets you change the way any website looks

If you use Arc Browser, you have the power to redesign the Internet. The popular new browser Kind of Arc from The Browser Company is releasing an updated version of its Boosts feature, which lets you control everything from the colors to the layout of each website you visit.

Basically, Boost has two features. You can use it to change the colors and fonts on a page, or you can use it to hide a given part of a page. (You can also write CSS and JavaScript, so technically the sky's the limit, but it requires more coding knowledge.) Want to implement dark mode for a website? Easy. Want to enlarge the text of an article so you can actually see it, you know? Complete.

To explain, let me just tell you some of the things I've done with Boost over the past few days with the features I've been doing. I used Boost's "Zaps" feature to remove all signs of shorts from the YouTube homepage and nix the "Trending" sidebar on Twitter. I've created a lite mode version of The Verge's homepage and one that exclusively uses the Papyrus font. (Best font, am I right?) I created a font that tries to automatically remove sponsored listings that Amazon likes to nudge to the top of search results. I got rid of both sidebars on LinkedIn. And I changed a bunch of news sites to the same sandy pink color as the Financial Times, because it's nicer to read that way.

Boost works well but not perfectly. Sometimes it's a bad idea which colors go together, and I sometimes see part of a page blink but it won't blink in full. If you mess with it long enough, you can usually get it right, but it's not a perfect point-and-click experience. I definitely made some websites worse trying to make them better.

Behind all this lies a philosophical question: Who should have control over the way websites look and work? Who am I to poke around on the YouTube homepage? Darin Fischer, a longtime web developer who is now a software engineer at a browser company, thinks giving control to users is the only right answer. "At the end of the day, it's software," he says. "You're running it on your computer, you're bringing up these websites, why not let it customize how it looks?"

Boost is really just a new version of an old idea. Tools like Greasemonkey and Stylish make it possible to customize your own experience of the web, but they usually require at least basic coding knowledge. The first version of Boost, which shipped last year in Arch, was just that. On the other hand, creating boosts with the new tools is as easy as moving around a color wheel and clicking on the elements you want to bump.

If you create a Boost you like, you can share it with other Arch users, who can install it with a single click. Limit only? JavaScript that Boost uses cannot be shared, which is a defense against bad actors building sneaky code into their Boost. Basically, you can ruin your computer with JavaScript Boost but not someone else's.

The browser company even created something called Boost Galleries, where you can search and find those shareable customizations for different websites. It'll be like the Chrome Web Store, Fischer says, minus all the things that make the Chrome Web Store a headache. Boost can't read your browser history, and they can't interfere with the actual interactivity of a website. The way Fischer describes it, Boost just lets the page load and then moves some things around. It's simple on purpose, and Fischer says that's not likely to change.

An interesting challenge for the browser company here is making sure things don't break. Some users compulsively create boosts that cause problems on a site or hide something that turns out to be useful; Those users may even forget that they promoted and just blame the website. Fischer says he's sensitive to this as well as the potential for things like inserting images onto webpages to sow misinformation, but he thinks that limiting what Boost can do will help prevent the worst consequences. . Gets help.

Boosts are also coming to Arch's mobile app, but not yet. And Fischer seems a little less enthusiastic about the potential on mobile: Since you're likely to do your YouTubing and Redditing in an app rather than a tab, Arc can't do much for you on your phone.

After playing with the new Boost for a few days, I don't know whether it will forever change the way I use the web. But I know I like YouTube and Twitter better without most of their interface. Drop the sidebar — it's neat.

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