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Is Apple planning to ‘sherlock’ Arc?

Arc browser's new AI-powered 'pinch-to-summarize' feature is clever, but often misses the mark

Is Apple planning to ‘sherlock’ Arc?

One of the more innovative features of the mobile web browser Arc Search from The Browser Company is its ability to search the web for you and then spit back a summary of what it learned, instead of returning a more traditional set of search results. The feature, “Browse for me,” is one of several ways the company has leveraged AI to offer a new way to search the web. Another, “pinch to summarize,” serves up an AI summary of individual web pages. However, it seems that these AI features could also be the target of Apple’s latest “sherlocking” attempt — a term that references how Apple has historically borrowed ideas from its developer community to flesh out its own apps and OS features.

The term came about following Apple’s release of a finder app named Sherlock in the late 1990s, which offered features similar to a third-party finder app Watson. Since then, whenever Apple ships a new feature or app that seems “inspired” by another, it’s been referred to as “sherlocking.”

In recent years, Apple has been accused of sherlocking products like Camo, which let you use your iPhone as a webcam; this became a built-in feature known as Continuity Camera. It sherlocked apps like Duet Display and Luna with the release of Sidecar, a way to use the iPad as a second screen. Apple’s buy now, pay later service, Apple Pay Later, was said to have sherlocked other BNPL apps like Klarna and others. Medication tracking, period tracking, mood logging, journaling and sleep tracking features, to name a few, were also first found among the third-party developer community.

With the release of iOS 18 later this year, Apple may again be borrowing ideas from its app developer community. This time it’s Arc that could be among those affected.

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, Apple plans to release a new technology called “smart recaps,” among other AI-powered additions to core apps like Photos, Notes and Safari. As Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman describes it, smart recaps will provide users with “summaries of their missed notifications and individual text messages, as well as of web pages, news articles, documents, notes and other media” [emphasis ours].

Summarizing the web using AI is one of the things that Arc today is known best for — and an area where the company continues to innovate. For example, last week Arc launched another, new way to search the web with AI, dubbed “Call Arc,” where you raise the phone to your ear and ask a question. Combined with its “browse for me” and “pinch to summarize” search tools, Arc has been offering users a way to use AI as a search companion.

Summarizing the news with AI, more broadly, has been the focus of several startups as well, including apps like Particle from former Twitter engineers, smart RSS reader Bulletin, trend summarizer Break the Web, and countless other iOS apps.

If Apple bundles what are essentially AI-powered recaps within its Safari browser, the demand for alternative browsers or apps that offer their own AI tools may be diminished. That won’t necessarily be enough to affect Arc’s growth, however. The startup behind the web browser has committed to experimenting with other ideas besides AI summaries, including new ways to minimize distractions, organize tabs, block ads, and more, and with an AI assistant, Max.

As for The Browser Company, they’re not worried.

“This is what makes our job so fun,” said co-founder and CEO Josh Miller. “Pushes us to be even more imaginative and courageous.”

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