RockMelt: A Great Social Browser for the Desktop, But Isn’t This the Mobile Era?

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activity in your social networks and favorite news sources. It also lets you dive in for a closer look at that activity, all without having to abandon whatever Web page you’re viewing in the main window.

When you get your first look at RockMelt, one major twist in the familiar old browser interface pops out at you. It’s what RockMelt calls the “Edges.” On the left side is the Friend Edge, a column of badges representing your Facebook friends, and on the right is the App Edge, with badges that link to Twitter, your favorite news sources, and any special apps or extensions you may have installed. You can set your Friend Edge to show just the badges of your favorite Facebook friends, or just the friends who have shared updates recently. You can add whatever services you want to your App Edge. For example, if you frequently visit the home page of the New York Times, RockMelt will help you add a Times badge as a quick conduit to Times article summaries.

The Edge badges have several functions. In their passive state, badges on the Friend Edge bear green or yellow dots telling you whether your Facebook friends are online or idle, while badges on the App Edge have counters showing how many unread Tweets or stories or other items are awaiting your review. If you hover your mouse over a Friend Edge badge, you see a pop-up window with that friend’s most recent status update, and if you actually click on the badge, an iPad-style pop-over window appears, showing a longer list of updates and a chat window. Similarly, clicking on an App Edge badge brings up a pop-over window with a list of tweets, story summaries, or the like. (All of this stuff is demonstrated nicely in Robert Scoble’s 20-minute video interview with RockMelt’s co-founders, Tim Howes and Eric Vishria.)

If you like having lots of information and options at your fingertips, you’ll love the RockMelt Edges. With so many badges floating around, the Edges will definitely increase the clutter quotient on your desktop, but you can hide them if you need to reduce the distractions temporarily. (I might wind up doing that fairly often, since I find that when both Edges are active, there isn’t enough horizontal space remaining on my MacBook screen for certain Web pages to render properly. This is a particular problem with WordPress, the software we use to publish Xconomy.)

Without the Edges, of course, RockMelt is almost reduced to being a Chrome clone. Except, that is, for two more features that—while less visually obvious than the Edges— still help RockMelt users accomplish common Web tasks faster. One is the search box. In Chrome, the address bar where you enter URLs doubles as the search bar; any term you type there turns into a Google search. RockMelt’s address bar (technically it’s called the Omnibar) does the same thing, but RockMelt also provides a second, separate search bar. If you enter a query there, you’ll get a pop-over list of search results, and clicking on any of the links will bring up the appropriate pages in the main browser window. It’s a great way to screen lots of pages for the information you need without having to jump back and forth between a search result page and a series of destination pages.

Finally, there’s the Share button, which speeds up the process of telling your friends or followers about interesting stuff you’ve found on the Web. Prominently placed between the Omnibar and the search bar, the Share button instantly crafts a Facebook update, a tweet, or … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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4 responses to “RockMelt: A Great Social Browser for the Desktop, But Isn’t This the Mobile Era?”

  1. Albert Kondzeli says:

    can you send me the instaall od RockMelt
    Thank you

  2. stev85 says:

    Want a real review of RockMelt? Want an unbiased review? Fellow nerds, check out http://generationnerd.weltbranding.com/

  3. Lunar says:

    AdAge had a similar pessimism of RockMelt. It said that RockMelt’s primary value is making browsing more social when other software have already done it BETTER (http://bit.ly/azi7gw). They mention a plug-in called kikin which connects you to live feeds as well as finding more relevant content from your favorites sites by scanning your current page. You guys should check it out – http://www.kikin.com

    *note – I do work at kikin, but I only came here AFTER I read that article and checked it out first*