Mighty wants to stream a cloud-powered Chrome browser to your PC, for a price

nanoguy

Posts: 764   +12
Staff member
WTF?! Whenever we find our computers struggling to run apps, games, or the odd RAM-hungry web browser, the usual solution is to upgrade to a beefier machine. A new startup called Mighty proposes a bizarre alternative -- a web browser that lives on a powerful server in the cloud, for "just" $30 per month.

If you're reading this article, chances are that you're doing so from a Chromium-based browser, either Google Chrome or the new Microsoft Edge. These two browsers have a combined market share of over 75 percent, with Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and others taking smaller slices of the remaining share.

Heavy browser users among us may have noticed that a lot of effort has gone into making significant performance enhancements to browsers — it's been a never-ending cycle for the past two decades, really — from using fewer CPU cycles to reducing their appetite for RAM and suspending tabs you're not actively using. On mobile, browser developers have offered data saving features for a while now, to conserve precious cellular data on limited plans and to make the experience of loading websites faster.

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.

For the past two years, Mighty has been working on a solution for streaming a Chromium-based browser from a powerful server in the cloud to an app that has a much lower footprint on your computer than Chrome has, especially after you open a few dozen tabs. To that end, the company has forked Chromium to "integrate directly with various low-level render/encoder pipelines," and built a networking protocol to make interactions with the new browser feel the same as using a powerful workstation with a gigabit connection to the Internet.

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.

Currently, a Mighty browser instance runs on 16 vCPUs on a server with dual Intel Xeon CPUs and Nvidia GPUs. Mighty's pitch is that can always change in the future if your needs grow over time, without you having to upgrade your machine to tap into that additional power (for a browser?). The flip side, however, is that Mighty costs $30 per month, so if you typically upgrade your machine every four years, that's $1440 you've spent elsewhere.

There are other caveats that will immediately hit the skeptical eye. For one, Mighty requires a 100 Mbps Internet connection to feel as snappy as promised -- faster than any browser on a typical laptop or desktop. And while Mighty promises to encrypt your keystrokes and never sell your browsing data to third parties, it will be difficult to earn trust on that front in a world where big tech companies with deep pockets have difficulties preventing data leaks and sometimes won't even take responsibility 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.

Permalink to story.

 

Dimitriid

Posts: 511   +854
In addition to the cloudfare browser mentioned on the article, you can even set this up yourself to get a virtual machine container (Called a docker container) just for your browser so it runs fully isolated from your local machine, and on Linux too so it's even more secure, it's called sameersbn if you want it ready to go or you could play around with Docker Desktop and just build a malware testing/suicide machine for yourself, without having to run a virtual machine but getting it similarly isolated and on a server (Yours or on your self made cloud)
 

brucek

Posts: 800   +1,101
TechSpot Elite
"Lastly, Mighty works by streaming 4K, 60 fps video to your device"

Ouch. Is there really no better transport they can use? I sometimes use Windows remote desktop to get to another of my machines and something like that seems like it would be a lot better...

Either way I'm skeptical there's much of an audience for this. How many people care enough about browser performance specifically to pay for this, but not about any other PC function so they don't mind having everything else stay slow?
 

Farkinell

Posts: 153   +220
Sometimes ideas come along that make you ask “why didn’t I think of this?!”

And then there’s other ideas like this…
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,446   +3,596
$30 a month to run Chrome. What a total ripoff. New CPUs for older platforms are not that expensive.

"As of writing, Mighty is only available for macOS, with no word on when it'll be Windows or Linux's turn"

Oh, THAT explains it. Those willing to pay the Ignorance Tax would be more then willing to pay $30 a month just for chrome.
 

Nobina

Posts: 3,036   +2,835
You can run Chrome and other basic programs fine on 4GB of RAM and a Celeron which someone will give you for free.
 

Danny101

Posts: 1,623   +697
Never. The only way I'll be using a cloud OS is for work purposes and the company is paying for it. It's hard enough fighting against the telemetry these days on home devices. This is pretty much a submission to defeat.
 

lostinlodos

Posts: 185   +44
…effort has gone into making significant performance enhancements to browsers…
And yet, they are far from as quick and snappy as old browsers were. There’s a few lesser-knows that strip down open source browsers to the requirements without useless visual bling. But none of them compare to the quick usability of late 90s browsers and a few plugins to support more modern formats.

Somewhere along the way development went from actual intent and towards “accessibility” and flashy tricks instead. I don’t need a fancy browser skin that takes 500MBs to load and makes the icons shiny.
I want one that doesn’t lock up under a few dozen text or html pages.
That doesn’t run wild with 12GBs of RAM for 50 dormant tabs.
When the art takes over from function in my book, that’s a failure.

"Lastly, Mighty works by streaming 4K, 60 fps video to your device"…Ouch. Is there really no better transport they can use? I sometimes use Windows remote desktop to get to another of my machines and something like that seems like it would be a lot better...
Shouldn’t be much of a problem if they us AV1. 4k30 works wonderfully in most computer monitors via AV1 at 1.2mbps. Double the frames double the size? 2.4 isn’t all that bad.
Keep in mind Blu-ray Discs are big because they can be (and to discourage copying), not because they need to be. Magnolia and Epic show 10GB films look great @1080 on 60+ inch screens.

AV1 is a far superior compression method.
 

brucek

Posts: 800   +1,101
TechSpot Elite
OK but if the point of this service is to let you use your old hardware, is that old hardware really going to provide snappy av1 decode?

Even if it does, 60hz is no longer top notch for a powerful device. Every once in a while some update or screwup resets my desktop to 60hz from its usual 144hz, and I notice something is off right away even just from scrolling a web page. But that may be moot if the old client can't go over 60fps anyway, which is another reason why I question the value of this service. I think most people would be happier with a client upgrade that works across all functions.
 

lostinlodos

Posts: 185   +44
I agree, and disagree. If you’re looking at anything over 60hz you’re probably way outside the target of ANYTHING close to this service in the first place.
I think my iMac is 60hz, (5k60) but not positive.
but: my TVs and monitor are 8K60 and 4k60, and 6k120, respectively.
If you’re not playing games anything faster isn’t all that useful. I do video editing, so I get it.
however I draw the line between noticeable and useful.
You and I are not normal. We can tell the difference and know the why of it.
the VAST a majority of the computing population is still happy with 720p30!