What if Facebook and Chrome mated: Meet RockMelt

If you can't live without instant Facebook updates and the latest Tweets, you should check out RockMelt, a new browser designed for the social networking aficionado.

Does the world need yet another browser? It depends. If you're like me, and spend a lot of time on the Web, but not too much time with social networking sites, you don't. Firefox and Chrome and even IE (not to mention Safari or Opera) are more than enough. But if you can't live without instant Facebook updates and the latest Tweets, you should check out RockMelt, a new browser designed for the social networking aficionado.

Slideshow: The Web Browser Turns 15: A Look Back

RockMelt looks a lot like Google's Chrome, and that's no coincidence. It's built on top of Chromium, the open source code base of Chrome. But as soon as you've set up RockMelt, you'll see some major differences.

When you first install RockMelt, the browser asks permission to access your Facebook settings, and it connects to the popular social media site every time you start it up.

The left side of the browser, which the RockMelt folks call an edge, is filled with pictures of your Facebook buddies. Click on a picture and you'll find out if the person is available to chat, and see their most recent Facebook actions.

Facebook Looks, Chrome Speed

The far side, called the app edge, has, not surprisingly, a list of apps. At the moment, it's rather short, consisting of Facebook, Twitter and your RSS feeds, although the company says there no reason it can't add additional services in the future. Each app icon displays a number that corresponds to new actions, updates, tweets or feeds you might want to look at.

When you open the Twitter app you can detach it as a free floating window that will stay open even if you close RockMelt and use it to read the recent tweets of everyone you follow. You tweet by clicking on your own Facebook icon in the upper left corner of the browser Window. All in all, it's quicker and easier than going back and forth to your Twitter home page.

RockMelt is still a work in progress. It was released as a quasi-public beta last week, which means you need to get in line to download it and give it a spin. Like most beta software, it's a bit buggy and some of the features aren't altogether functional. Co-founder and CEO Eric Vishria says RockMelt is "months away" from general availability and acknowledges that "there are a million and one things we still need to tweak."

Bugs aside, RockMelt works rather well. Like close cousin Chrome, it's tabbed, runs fast and displays an image of recently viewed Web pages. Unlike Chrome, it has separate fields for URLs and searches. It was able to import my Firefox bookmarks with no problems, and browsing with it was pretty much like browsing with any other browser.

It would be simplistic to call RockMelt a front end for Facebook, but its integration with Facebook is really the heart of the matter. Indeed, if you don't have a Facebook account, you can't run RockMelt.

What about privacy?

Given Facebook's penchant for stepping on the toes of its users by carelessly exposing private information, it's not surprising that Vishria had a ready answer to my questions about privacy. RockMelt, he says, doesn't share user information with other companies and an ad network is not part of its business plan. "We want our incentives to be aligned with those of our users. If you start running an ad network, incentives start to get misaligned," added co-founder and CTO Tim Howes.

It would be useful, no to mention smart marketing, if RockMelt included a control panel or other device to manage privacy setting across all of your social media.

How the company will make money isn't clear. But Vishria envisions RockMelt eventually generating revenue by including new services such as gaming and ecommerce.

Neither man is shy about the potential of their product. "If we don't become people's default browser, we'll have failed," said Howes.

That's a tall order. But you've got to admire their drive and ambition, and if social networking is a big part of your life, you might well admire their product.

San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net.

Follow Bill Snyder on Twitter @BSnyderSF. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags browserssoftwareapplications

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Bill Snyder

Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?