Remember Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer? Those applications from the 1990s used emphatic metaphors in their names to talk about a simple task — browsing the web. Today, nobody would say that Google Chrome is a web explorer.
Browsing the web has become an effortless — and often mindless — task. You grab your phone or computer, you open a new tab and you type a few words in the address bar.
Beam, a new startup founded by Dom Leca and Sébastien Métrot, is working on a brand new app that is both a web browser and a note app. Dom Leca previously founded Sparrow, an email app for macOS and iOS that was acquired by Google in 2012. Sébastien Métrot has been working for Apple for several years.
“Everybody complains that Instagram and Facebook fry your brain and make you waste time,” Leca told me. And yet, web browsers represent infinite knowledge and infinite possibilities.
If you’re very passionate about a niche topic, chances are you can learn a ton of things by reading stuff, watching videos, interacting on forums and more. But when you close your browser window, everything disappears.
Sure, there’s a web history feature — but it’s a long list of links with no connection. Sure, you can bookmark pages or take notes in another app — but it’s a cumbersome process.
More importantly, you might not know what’s important and what’s not. Most passion projects start with meaningless search queries.
Beam aims to bring meaning to your web history. Every time you search for something, it creates a new note card. Beam passively follows users as they click on links, open new pages and spend time looking at stuff.
When you close the tab, you have a new card — your search query is the title of the card and you can see all links under that note. You can then add text, remove links that weren’t that relevant, etc.
By combining passive note creation with a tiny nudge when you close a tab, you get to reflect on your web activity. It’s a way to learn more about yourself and your habits. Sure, you may realize that you waste a ton of time. But you might also realize that you care more than you thought about cooking and Russian classical music.
“From a certain point of view, I’m designing this for people who don’t take notes,” Leca said.
But even if you use a note app, they interrupt you as you need to switch between multiple apps. Leca invested in Roam Research and likes it a lot. But he doesn’t think it solves that amnesia affect when you browse the web.
The startup is already thinking about ways to expand beyond that simple concept. You could imagine a way to interact with content directly from your notes — click on a YouTube link to view the video directly in your card, click on a podcast link to see an automated transcript, etc.
Eventually, Beam could let you share cards with other users. You could browse other user profiles based on matches with your interests.
Beam is leveraging WebKit as the browser engine and is working on a Mac app for now. It’s going to take a few months before a public release, but it’s going to be an interesting company to follow.
The company raised $3.5 million (€3 million) from Spark, Alven, C4V, Amaranthine, Tiny Capital (Andrew Wilkinson), Tiny vc, Secret Fund, Antoine Martin, Simon Dawlat, Nicolas Cohen and Spetses. Loren Brichter (remember Tweetie for Mac?) and Oliver Reichenstein (iA Writer) are advising the company.