Web Apps

RockMelt’s Social Browsing Experiment May Quickly Dissolve

RockMelt has unveiled the public beta of its new Web browser featuring built-in social network sharing.

Named after the company, the browser is built on Google Chromium.

Its integration with Facebook is so tight that users must log intothat social networking site first in order to use the browser.

The RockMelt browser keeps track of a user’s favorite sites. However, the concept of integrating a browser with social networking features isn’t exactly new — Flock, an alternative browser that’s been in the marketfor some time and is also based on Chromium.

Oozing Through RockMelt

The RockMelt browser has integrated Facebook, Twitter and otherpopular social networking sites through open application programminginterfaces (APIs) so users can interact and share information withfriends on these sites easily.

The browser is built on top of GoogleChromium, the open source projectbehind Google Chrome.

Users have to log into the browser through Facebook Platform. A user’sFacebook friends are integrated directly into the browser. Sharing isbuilt directly into the browser so users can easily update theirstatuses, tweet or share content on the social networking sitessupported.

The RockMelt browser keeps track of users’ favorite sites and alertsthem when there are new developments on those sites through pushnotifications.

RockMelt also claims its browser speeds up search. It’s available for both Mac and Windows.

Close, but No Cigar?

“The concept sounds good, but in practice things are a little morecomplicated,” Ray Valdes, vice president of Web services at Gartner,told TechNewsWorld. “A browser is a fairly large piece of softwarethat can’t be updated every day, meaning it can’t be updated as fastas websites.”

Every time a social networking site adds new services andcapabilities, those changes would have to be reflected in the browser,Valdes said. Facebook, for example, is “continuously evolving,continuously being updated,” and that makes it difficult for a browserto keep up because it can’t be updated that swiftly, Valdes pointedout. “When was the last time Internet Explorer was updated?” he asked.

At least one tool linking a browser to Facebook — a Firefox extensionfor Facebook — didn’t fare too well in the past.

“That Firefox extension for Facebook was one of the most useful toolsI used, but it fell behind in keeping up with the changes to Facebook,so I had to stop using it,” Valdes said. “I think it’s a challenge forany browser maker to come up with a social browser, even though intheory there’s a need for it.”

Flocked Off

The RockMelt browser is similar to one from Flock, but that browserdidn’t do too well either, Valdes remarked.

Flock has two browsers, one based on Mozilla and the other onChromium. It launched the Chromium version in June.

“We’ve been around commercially in the market for three years and haveover 9 million users for both versions of the browser,” ShawnHardin, CEO of Flock, told TechNewsWorld. “Both our browsers arecurrently on Facebook’s top 10 most popular browser list.”

Flock takes a “very different” approach to providing social networkingsite access than RockMelt does, Hardin said.

“Our product is integrated; we have our own look and feel; we have aminimum amount of real estate for the product; and we give users twoways to set up Flock in the Chromium version,” Hardin pointed out.

One way is for users to open and use the browser like any otherbrowser and tell it to remember social networking sites they visit.The other way is to set up an account with Flock in a secure encryptedenvironment in Flock’s cloud and use that account to access all theirsocial networking sites. “This empowers users to control theiridentities and personas across multiple networks,” Hardin said.

RockMelt has “a lot of real estate on the screen for buttons only toclick on; a focus only on Facebook; and a lot of pop-up windows,”Hardin remarked. “With the RockMelt model it seems you depend onFacebook for privacy and security,” he added.

RockMelt did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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