Today, online work is skyrocketing in nearly every industry. Companies are moving their workforce and data to the cloud at record speeds. Freelancers are flocking to the web and setting up virtual shops. Startups are developing new apps that help us to collaborate better on the ever-expanding web.
And yet, the only way we can access any of this is with a web browser. The thing is that web browsers are great at accessing the web, but they’re not built and optimized for working online.
A browser for everyone is a workspace for no one
The market is now dominated by Google Chrome and a handful of other browsers. These are fast and secure tools that are honed to cut through any browsing mission. Still, a web browser can deliver more. The crux of the problem stems from the revenue model, which significantly determines what they can and cannot do.
The three decades of engineering browsers were mostly about crafting a svelte solution for Internet surfing. Browsers were seen as a nexus between the user and a website, a supplement to the operating system, merely a detail of the workflow.
“To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool […] that gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go,” the Chrome browser 2008 release note said. Ironically, in 2022, browsers do stand in your way to success and productivity. They are unfit for focused online work.
To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool […] that gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go,” the Chrome browser 2008 release note said. Ironically, in 2022, browsers do stand in your way to success and productivity. They are unfit for focused online work.
Browsers, especially Chrome, have built an incredible foundation for accessing and viewing the web. They have also been able to pump billions of dollars back into their software because their business model has been so profitable.
Browsers get search royalties from the built-in search engine they use by default. Chrome uses its search engine, so instead of paying out fees to other web browsers, the money saved is transferred to the Chrome part of Google.
This model forced browsers to build a product for the broadest audience possible. And with only 2% of internet users working online, knowledge workers have no choice but to work in an environment made for the masses.
Web browsers monetize your attention
The traditional business model of a browser is about selling your attention to advertisers. All sorts of data harvesters sponge on your browsing data. They manipulate your online habits in order to keep your focus on redundant pages and search results. The cost is distraction and fatigue.
Why couldn’t they just create productivity-specific features for people who work online? If browsers were to launch features specifically for working, they would have to complicate their user-interface (UI). And with the slightest changes to their UI comes the possibility of millions of users switching to a simpler browser. A decline in users would translate into a drop in searches and, ultimately, billions of dollars in lost revenue – a risk that even the most daring CEO would be hesitant to take.
Take Search, for example. Does your browser really help you find the right document, app, or communication channel? Or does it send you to the monetizing search engine? Probably the latter.
Browsers are turning into pieced-together work environments
Up until now, browsers have been our only option for working on the web. That means millions of people work eight hours a day in a tool never intended for productivity.
As a result, knowledge workers have become quite innovative at making a browser somewhat usable for work. We install a plethora of extensions, use multiple windows, and create elaborate bookmark structures just so we can get our job done. But, despite these efforts, we still fight our browsers. Tasks like finding documents, keeping accounts separate, or managing communication streams continue to be a colossal struggle.
That’s because the disjointed browser interface is continually disrupting our fragile and finite workflows. These disruptions come in many forms – switching between contexts, searching for a tab, or leaving the browser momentarily to use a well-integrated desktop app.
What’s initially a small inconvenience, eventually turns into several hours lost at the end of every workweek.
Knowing that browsers won’t evolve into efficient work environments on their own, leaves us with two choices.
Either we have to individually build our own work experiences through a bunch of extensions, desktops, and profiles. Or we must create a different kind of operating system that lets go of the search-monetization business model and adopts one that puts the user at its center.
Sidekick has chosen the second option to empower the millions of knowledge workers worldwide.