When our machines struggle to run applications, games, or the occasional RAM-hungry web browser, the normal remedy is to update to a more powerful system. Mighty, a recent startup, offers an unusual alternative: a web browser that runs on a strong cloud platform for “just” $30 per month.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably using a Chromium-based browser, such as Google Chrome or the recent Microsoft Edge.
These two browsers have a total market share of more than 75%, with Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and others accounting for a smaller portion of the remaining market share.
Heavy web users may have found that a lot more work has gone towards bringing major speed improvements to browsers — a never-ending cycle over the past two decades, actually — from using less CPU cycles to reducing their demand for RAM and suspending tabs you’re not actively using. For a long time, browser developers on smartphone have provided data saving features to save valuable cellular data on small plans and to improve the experience of loading websites.
We’ve heard about running instances of entire operating systems or CPU-intensive applications in the cloud, and most recently, cloud gaming on its various presentations has the ambitious goal of letting you playing triple-A games without the need of much local graphics power. Now Mighty wants to do the same for the regular web browser.
Mighty has been working on a solution for streaming a Chromium-based browser from a powerful cloud service to an app that has a lot smaller footprint on your device than Chrome, particularly after you open a few dozen tabs. To that end, the organisation forked Chromium to “integrate directly with various low-level render/encoder pipelines,” and created a networking protocol to allow connections with the new browser sound like they’re on a strong workstation with a gigabit Internet link.
Initially, Mighty wanted to stream Windows, but pivoted to streaming just the web browser once they realized that users spend most of their time there. Furthermore, that approach would have emulated services like Shadow, and Mighty founder Suhail Doshi believes that to do both was unsustainable from a business standpoint.
Suhail notes that “most people want an experience where the underlying OS and the application (the browser) interoperate seamlessly versus having to tame two desktop experiences,” and that’s also why Mighty is designed to integrate well with the operating system. As of writing, Mighty is only available for macOS, with no word on when it’ll be Windows or Linux’s turn.
A Mighty browser instance is currently running on 16 vCPUs on a server with dual Intel Xeon CPUs and Nvidia GPUs. Mighty’s pitch is that you can still change your needs in the future if they change, without needing to update your computer to use the extra capacity (for a browser?). On the other hand, Mighty costs $30 a month, but if you usually refresh your computer every four years, that’s $1440 you might have invested elsewhere.
Other caveats would immediately catch the skeptic’s attention. Mighty, for example, needs a 100 Mbps Internet connection to feel as fast as promised – better than any browser on a standard laptop or desktop. And, though Mighty promises to encrypt your keystrokes and never sell your browsing data to third parties, earning loyalty on that front would be challenging in an environment where major tech firms with deep wallets struggle to avoid data breaches and, in some cases, refuse to accept blame for them.
Lastly, Mighty works by streaming 4K, 60 fps video to your device, which is an incredible waste of bandwidth. Knowing all this, it’s hard to recommend a cloud solution when there are alternatives in the works like Cloudflare’s Browser Isolation, which is actually designed with security in mind and works by sandboxing your browser session and sending only the final output of a browser’s web page rendering.