A new web browser has been unveiled by the people who brought us Netscape 16 years ago.
RockMelt, founded by Eric Vishria and Tim Howes, was released Monday as a “re-imagined” web browser that is designed to serve as a social networking hub, tightly integrating Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites into a traditional web page navigation program.
RockMelt allows users to “share easily, search faster, connect with friends, and keep up on news”; since the Monday release of its early version, the new browser has gotten industry observers in and beyond Silicon Valley talking.
The RockMelt browser is based on Google Chrome’s HTML-5-compliant and open-source Chromium foundation (which is why you might perhaps echo our same initial sentiments, “It kind of looks like Chrome”). However, what makes RockMelt different from Chrome (or Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Safari) is that it actually frames the social media experience – Facebook updates, chats, Twitter streams, etc. – within its browser, in the form of panes left and right of the browser bar.
RockMelt also comes with its own URL shortener (me.lt), cloud-based service, and Share button.
For early access to RockMelt, all you have to do is connect for an invitation using your Facebook account. Once launched, RockMelt “unlocks” a personalized and social web experience that features your Facebook friends, your RSS feeds, your favorite services, even your bookmarks and preferences. That way, you’ll be able to see and connect with all your Facebook friends who are online. You’ll also have instant access to your other social networks.
And because RockMelt is fully backed by cloud computing, you can run the browser on multiple computers, log in, and have your custom settings, bookmarks, and alerts synced across all those computers via the cloud.
RockMelt has also built a Share button right next to the URL bar that makes it easy to post links, stories, videos, and web pages you’ve stumbled upon and share them via Twitter or Facebook. No more copy-pasting URLs, no more logging into each site separately, and no more wading through elusive sharing widgets.
It’s been widely reported that Netscape founder Marc Andreessen – also co-founder of Ning and member of Facebook’s Board of Directors – is backing RockMelt. Another Netscape alumnus, Robert John Churchill, is said to be the principal engineer for the new web browser.
Does the web-browsing world need RockMelt? It’s a tough one to ask. On the one hand, other browser makers can simply follow its suit and add integrated social features of their own. Critics, in fact, are also already dismissing the new browser as not too different from Flock, a web browser with social networking features that had not exactly gained the web-browsing and social-media-using majority’s vote.
On the other hand, it’s high-time for a better – and more social – web browsing experience. Most browsers just let users search and add their own social features by way of add-ons and extensions. Now, with RockMelt, we have a browser that is designed specifically to serve a social audience.
And why not? According to Nielsen, Americans in 2010 spend 23 percent of their time online on social networking sites and services. That’s up by 7 percent from last year.
For the latest info and updates on RockMelt, visit the official blog. If you’ve downloaded the browser, feel free to follow us on Twitter @lsbranding and connect with us on Facebook by “liking” the Lakeshore Branding Facebook page.