With Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and others all duking it out for browser market share—as well as control of Web standards and users’ desktops—some might think the world doesn’tneed another Web browser. However, a group of developers led by Tim Howes and Eric Vishria now taken the wraps off RockMelt, a new Web browser built on Chromium that builds on the notion of a social Web by building Facebook and Twitter directly into the browser, along with integrated sharing tools and an enhanced way to scoot through Google search results via keyboard to find exactly what you want. And if you happen to be using a public computer or some one else’s system, no problem: RockMelt is the first browser to be “full backed by the cloud.” Just run RockMelt, and your personalized browsing experience is waiting for you.
“RockMelt does more than just navigate Web pages,” RockMelt wrote on their just-launched company blog. “It makes it easy for you to do the things you do every single day on the Web: share and keep up with your friends, stay up-to-date on news and information, and search.”
RockMelt is built on Google’s open-source Chromium project (which, in turn, includes technologies from Apple’s WebKit HTML engine, the Mozilla project, and other open source projects), and also builds in direct support for open APIs from Facebook and Twitter. RockMelt sports much of Chrome’s minimalist interface, but users can set up RockMelt to tap directly into their Facebook and Twitter accounts—to protect privacy, users have to log in to RockMelt—and the browser takes care of keeping track what your friends are saying, sharing, and complaining about. No need to keep a series of browser tabs open to monitor your social network, or use dedicated clients or browser add-ons.
RockMelt also keeps track of users favorite sites, informing users of new posts or updates automatically so users don’t have to constantly check for new posts. Taking it one step further, RockMelt proactively fetches that content so users don’t have to wait for it to download once they notice it’s available. RockMelt also integrates a sharing tool to make it easy to share a page or a link with friends: clicking a Share button next to the browser’s URL field automatically shares the link with Facebook or Twitter, no muss no fuss. RockMelt also claims to be the first browser “backed by the cloud,” meaning that users can run RockMelt from anywhere—remember, you have to log in—and tap directly into their personalized Web experience. RockMelt also aims to make searching easier my enabling users to flip through Google search results from the keyboard like flipping through a magazine.
RockMelt is available for Mac and Windows (no Linux support) by invitation only—and, for the moment, interested users can only get an invitation via Facebook. The initial RockMelt release could be generously described as a beta and has many rough spots, but the developers seem eager for feedback and thoughts on how to enhance the browser. Folks who spend a good portion of their online time using Facebook and Twitter then sharing interesting items with their friends may find a lot to like in RockMelt. If RockMelt’s features resonate with social Internet users, expect mainstream browsers to quickly take notice…or maybe RockMelt could become a mainstream browser itself.
RockMelt is backed by venture capital firm Andreeson Horowitz, which just launched a second $650 million fund to invest in technology startups. RockMelt, Kno, Proferi, and Zynga are among the new fund’s investments. RockMelt might have a special place in the heart of Marc Andreesen: he was one of the developers of the original MCSA Mosaic Web browser, and left it behind to found Netscape. Remember Netscape? At one point, it was the browser that turned the Web on its head.
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