For the past couple of days, I've been working and playing in a brand spanking new Web browser, called RockMelt. It's still in beta and only available by invitation. But I scored one and decided to throw myself into it.
I can honestly say, just a day or so later, that this browser has already changed the way I use the Web and I already see myself turning Chrome, Safari or Firefox into backups. The funny thing is that the Facebook integration, the one big thing that's supposed to differentiate this browser from others, is the kind of the thing I don't really care for.
Or don't really need.
And so, I present you my initial thoughts about RockMelt, based on my own steady usage for a couple of workdays this week.
Built on Chromium: I was already a fan of Google's Chrome browser so leaving it for another was going to be hard. But RockMelt has the look and feel of Chrome right out of the gate. That means the address bar is also a search bar and the searches are all conducted pretty fast.
Share button: I can admit that I love to share random things I find on the Internet (like that great middle school football fake-out video) via Facebook or Twitter. In most cases, I have to copy the link and then take it to Facebook or Twitter - or Tweetdeck in my case. With RockMelt, that button is built into the browser and the the content being shared never leaves the screen. That's a nice touch.
Facebook/Tweet updates: That button on the top of the left-side rail has is an update button, one that allows users to update their Facebook status or blast a quick tweet - without having to go to Facebook.com or Twitter.com to do it.
RSS Feeds and Notificatons: This is perhaps the best feature for a guy like me who is always connected and has far too many tabs open at any given hour. On this one column (far right), I can get to the sites that are on my daily (and sometimes several times a day) rounds. I can see the contents of my Gmail inbox and even scan through my Facebook photo album. That's a lot of tabs that don't need to be open.
Better search: The search, which clearly takes its cues from Google, is top notch. Keeping the results on the page, via the pop-up window, is a great way to cut back on the flood of traditional search results.
Facebook integration: The left rail is devoted to your Facebook friends. The green dot on the lower left of their thumbnail photo tells me they're online and ready to chat. Click to see that person's wall, start a chat, send a message post to their walls.
Sounds great, right? But that is my one thing that I don't love so much. Having Facebook built into the browser and interacting with pop-up windows - albeit, very nice pop-ups - seems to take something away from larger Facebook experience as a standalone. The only thing that the integration of Facebook has done is take away the occasional escapes from work to check out the buzz..
Finally, the arrival of RockMelt sends at least one other big message: The browser is becoming more like the OS and RockMelt, especially with those little icons that look like Apps but are actually RSS-based links, drives home the significance of a good browser as the "Web" redefines itself.
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