As the internet has become increasingly integrated into everyday life, the web browser has become one of the most important apps that runs on most computers, allowing you to stream video, play games, do online banking and accounting, edit documents, make video calls, and much more.

But as we ask browsers to do more and more, some folks have noticed that they can slow to a crawl on systems that may not have the horsepower to handle everything.

So a startup called Mighty has come up with a solution that… honestly has me scratching my head a bit. They’ve put a Google Chrome web browser in the cloud, letting you essentially stream the browser to your computer much the way you can stream games using services like Stadia, GeForce Now, or xCloud.

Mighty is launching as an invite-only service available first for macOS, but you can fill out a questionnaire to request early access.

The basic idea behind the service is that if browsers like Google Chrome slow to a crawl on your computer when you strain them, then you can alleviate that by offloading most of the work to a powerful cloud server that has no trouble handling dozens of browser tabs at once, even with one of them streaming 4K video.

That way you can run a low-profile app on your desktop that just lets you connect to that browser-in-the-cloud without straining your local resources (except for your internet connection).

Mighty says the upshot is that you can keep using your old computer for longer without upgrading, while still handling heavy web workloads. Among other things, this lets your CPU run cooler, your system’s fans run quieter (assuming your computer has fans), and may even extend your laptop’s battery life. And the cloud-based browser may get faster and add new features over time as the company upgrades its server hardware and/or software.

One downside is that you’ll need a fairly fast internet connection – Mighty says you’ll “rarely notice lag” if you have a 100 Mbps connection. And that’s… not something everybody has yet.

Another downside? The privacy implications. Using Mighty to surf the web means that all of your data is going through a remote server. Mighty says that data is stored on a virtual machine that’s isolated from other users. And the company has “tight controls” over how your data can be accessed (in a nutshell, no humans will look at it unless you authorize them to do so, but Mighty notes that its service is not currently HIPAA or SOC-2 compliant).

But the biggest reason I’m not sure Mighty’s solution makes any real sense at all is the pricing structure.

Right now you probably don’t pay anything to use your web browser (aside from the cost of hardware and internet data). But Mighty will almost use a subscription-based, software-as-a-service model. The company hasn’t officially revealed pricing yet, but the number folks at Hacker News seem to be throwing around is $30 per month.

For that price, I don’t see why you wouldn’t just upgrade to a new computer every couple of years if your old one seems too slow for the tasks you’re using it for.

That said, you probably won’t be using the kind of hardware that makes Mighty’s web browser fly. Each virtualized web browser instance currently gets 16GB of dedicated system memory and the equivalent of 16 virtual CUs running at speeds up to 4 GHz.

Honestly, that’s probably more horsepower than most folks need for a web browser. But then again. I suspect most folks aren’t going to want to pay for Mighty anyway. While some folks see this browser-in-the-cloud setup as “changing the future of computing,” I have a hard time seeing it as anything more than a niche product that will appeal to a very specific subset of computer users for the foreseeable future.

That said, it’s interesting to see that Mighty is launching first on macOS – an operating system where Google’s Chrome browser has a history of causing problems that may affect performance and battery life. Maybe that niche user base Mighty is looking for is Mac users.

via Mighty and Slashdot

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  1. This is a great idea for people living outside the USA. A browser with an American IP address would display websites in English, instead of the local language. It would make the Best Buy website easier to use too. And of course, it would be easier to access blocked websites in some countries. For example, Google searches for “Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage” are blocked in some Arab Muslim countries.

    1. VPNs and proxies are a significantly less complicated solution for that. At least, less complicated in terms of how much computing power is needed, they don’t always offer a “download an app and it just works” experience.
      They’re much cheaper too.
      In fact, web streaming can really be considered a subcategory of proxies.

  2. What a supreme waste of money.

    I highly doubt their intentions are to sell only a “remote Chrome browser”. Either they’re going to be doing much more, or they’re just doing this to get attention because they’re posturing for a big tech company to buy them out.

    Perhaps they’re building their software to be a competitor to Browserstack, or similar. I use Browserstack for troubleshooting web development stuff. It’s handy to be able to load into a browser on various types of mobile devices to see how pages react.

  3. I guess it could make some sense for adamant Mac users on a limited budget. 30 dollars a month for two years wouldn’t come close to buying the cheapest non-used Mac. But seriously, GeForce now is 10 bucks a month and that’s for gaming. For 30 you should get a full virtual machine not just a browser.

    1. I don’t think anything implied that you are getting a remote system powered by Mac OS. They only said that they are currently only accepting Mac OS users, perhaps they only have their client software fully developed for Mac OS at this time?

      1. I never said it was using Mac OS, it’s just that for 320 you can buy a low end windows or chrome device every two years which should handle modern web pages without much issue. You’d need about the times as much for the cheapest new Mac.

        1. Okay, I understand what you mean. The cost of upgrading an underperforming Mac is a barrier for people to keep up with the demands of website and streaming media performance.

          This is absolutely true, and furthermore, Apple has been VERY behind the times in terms of keeping up with the hardware requirements to help decode some of the latest video compression technologies being used online today. They sold outdated Intel chips FAR longer than they should have.

          I would venture a guess than more than 50% of the Mac users who bought their Mac in the past 2-4 years were sold a pre-7th-gen Intel CPU, which lacks HEVC/h265 decoding support, despite the fact that 7th gen came out 5 years ago.

  4. They got the “mighty” name right… mighty unnecessary. I hope they do well with getting investor money.

  5. It’s an utterly silly way of browsing the web, but if (IF!) it spreads far enough it allows web developers to completely ignore optimization or even general principles of simplicity. At a certain point, if the web site is good enough for a Threadripper it’s good enough for everyone.
    Also, this makes it really easy to serve ads that are impossible to block, so I would not be surprised if there was a major push for web streaming from google or microsoft, or even your ISP.

    1. On the bright side, blocking ads on this wouldn’t matter to many (I’m talking about those who block ads to save system resources and for faster load times.)

      Obviously the privacy thing would continue.

    2. I really doubt many web developers would start taking advantage of the performance benefits unless it had nearly 90% uptake.

      For example, if you were running an online store, and you developed your website in a way where even 5% of users had performance issues with their experience, you would be sacrificing a lot of traffic.

      Having said that, I can see some potential benefits to a heavily modified version of this concept. For example, some hosting services, web apps, and CDNs could start optimizing their connections to these “remote browser” data centres. Or even locally host mirrors of their content at these data centres.

      It would allow content and web apps to react faster to contribute to page performance.

      However, I kinda doubt the final leg of the journey (the remote browser’s server to the user) would be fast enough to make those improvements worth while.

      But I do think it’s an interesting concept to have the ability to localize (or at least optimize the connection between) the hosted web content, and the user’s browser hardware.

  6. Seems overpriced but I could see this being a nice addition to raspberry pis and other IOT devices for streaming media playback.

    1. If the computer you’re on has problems with processing a video stream at an acceptable framerate, I doubt it would do much better at processing the stream of a stream running in a remote browser.
      In fact, video streaming kind of puts a limit on this service’s useful range. A website has to be more taxing on your cpu than a video stream for mighty to make any sense.
      Unless of course you hoard enough browser tabs to run out of RAM.

      1. Kinda seems like browsing via TeamViewer or VNC, which isn’t exactly a recipe for speed. So it must be a bit different.