Mighty's master plan to reignite the future of desktop computing

We're excited to finally unveil Mighty, a faster browser that is entirely streamed from a powerful computer in the cloud.

After 2 years of hard work, we've created something that's indistinguishable from a Google Chrome that runs at 4K, 60 frames a second, takes no more than 500 MB of RAM, and often less than 30% CPU with 50+ tabs open. This is the first step in making a new kind of computer.

If you're not sure what that means, imagine your browser is a Netflix video but running on cutting-edge server hardware somewhere else.

When you switch to Mighty, it will feel like you went out and bought a new computer with a much faster processor and much more memory. But you don't have to buy a new computer. All you have to do is download a desktop app.

Benefits

  • 50+ tabs without your computer coming to a crawl
  • Work without fan noise as busy processing is offloaded
  • Figma feels 2x faster using our NVIDIA GPUs
  • 2+ hours of extra battery life

To make Mighty work, we had to solve a lot of complex engineering problems, including designing a custom server to keep costs low, building a custom low-latency networking protocol, forking Chromium to integrate directly with various low-level render/encoder pipelines, and making the software interoperate with a long list of macOS features.

We are working hard at ramping up server capacity across the world as we roll it out to users.

Streaming

You might be thinking: "Yeah but what about the lag?"

Lag would have been a real problem 5 years ago, but new advances since then have allowed us to eliminate nearly all of it: 5 Ghz WiFi bands, H.265 hardware-accelerated low-latency encoders, widespread 100 Mbps Internet, and cheaper, more powerful GPUs. We also designed a new low-latency network protocol, and we locate servers as close to users geographically as possible.

As a result, a user with 100 Mbps internet will rarely notice lag while using Mighty. Watch this demo video and see for yourself.

When my MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM was only a year old, Chrome was killing my battery in under 2 hours. I switched to Mighty and was shocked at how there was no input lag. Everything was instant and my battery lasted several hours again!
- Kevin Siskar, CEO of Finta

Over time we think latency and congestion over people's connections will improve in the future: WiFi 6, growing availability of 1 Gbps connections, H.266, Starlink, and redefining "broadband."


Our mission at Mighty is to make a new computer that changes what apps can do.


There are four components to this idea:

Browser = OS

When we first started Mighty, our plan was to stream Microsoft Windows. But after talking to users we learned that they were using their browser most of the time and what they really needed was a faster browser:

“Which application feels like it gets slowest the most?”

The OS is becoming increasingly irrelevant as we near the end of a multi-decade shift from desktop to web apps.  Now even applications you install (Slack, Notion, Figma, etc.) are often made with Electron, which is largely running the engine of a browser.

From the user's point of view, the browser is the operating system. That's where they spend their time and where apps run. Obviously operating systems will continue to exist, but they will shift into more of a background role.

The cloud

Ever since Amazon Web Services launched EC2 and S3, developers have benefited from new kinds of services that helped them manage and scale their systems. What we haven't seen yet is cloud services aimed at helping end users. But there is a lot of potential to do that too.

A common question we also get is: "Well, don't you think the hardware will just get so much better that you won't need to buy a new computer?" My common answer is: I remember when my dad told me that nobody would ever need more than 4 MB of RAM in a computer. When hardware advances, software commensurately absorbs the possibilities. The more cynical might blame JavaScript but I think it has enabled developers to build useful things more quickly.

Hardware inspires software and software inspires hardware—a never-ending virtuous cycle.

We still upgrade our computers but usually either when keyboard keys are falling off or when we feel like "it's time" because everything is running so slowly. It's not straightforward to pick the right Windows computer (80%+ of humanity still runs Windows, not macOS)—what do you search for? I had to buy one for my mother and Googling "Best Windows Computer 2021" still prevails. Battery life still hasn't achieved multi-day performance despite it being the most desirable improvement amongst consumers. What gives?

One answer is moving more client-side compute to the cloud. From there, it's possible to change the constraints of the computer both in terms of software and hardware more rapidly.

If you can move the most demanding processing, then battery life can finally improve because video decode and render times (we're streaming video here) get more efficient with better chipsets.

As new processors come to market, we're able to acquire and put them in production as soon as supply is available. If a user desires more memory, that's an easy flip of the switch—no downtime. Need GPUs to render all those assets in a huge Figma file? Done. Supercomputers for all. When you need them.

On the software side, we can make the best choices across users running the same hardware/software stack, ranging from picking the optimal DNS provider (8.8.8.8, 1.1.1.1), to shaving a few milliseconds off page loads, to caching frequently used web apps as long as possible to make them feel "instant."

By changing the constraints we're all used to as software and hardware engineers, a new kind of computer is possible. A computer that can directly benefit consumers to take advantage of cloud infrastructure and networking.

Commodity computers

If most of the time people spend is in a browser and most of the processing and system resources are offloaded, their computer won’t feel slow as apps become more demanding.

You might not need the best computer specs if the other computer you're using is in the cloud. So we think prices will drop over time and computer lifetimes will lengthen encouraging manufacturers to focus on other differentiators: durability, weight, displays, design, and battery life.

Latency & the Internet

For Mighty to succeed, we have a strong incentive to find ways to reduce latency. Specifically the latency our customers might feel when they type, move their mouse, scroll, or see smooth 60 FPS animations when using our streaming browser.

We plan to contribute some of our revenue and funding to benefit everyone to realize this goal. That might be researching new networking protocols or standards, working with router manufacturers, research into congestion algorithms, education around WiFi, and helping push policy around the definition of “broadband” globally.

We have a lot to learn—we welcome all perspectives.

In summary, our master plan is:

  • Create a browser that reduces the need to upgrade your computer
  • Drastically improve computers in the cloud using modern advances in networking & elastic infrastructure
  • Replace expensive physical computers with low powered inexpensive ones to achieve multi-day battery life
  • While doing so, improve worldwide latency of the Internet

If you're as excited as we are, consider joining us.


Thank you to Paul Graham, Balaji Srinivasan, Michael Mayer, Elad Gil, Amelia Salyers, and many others for reading drafts of this piece.

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