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

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I’ve tested out all of the features described here, and not only do they function as advertised (most of the time), they strike me as genuinely labor-saving for anyone who makes the social Web a big part of their day. I especially like being able to see status updates or links from my Facebook friends, and even chat with my friends directly, without having to go to Facebook itself. It’s also very nice to have my Twitterstream one click away—and glancing through the other feeds in the App Edge is a good quick-and-dirty substitute for a real session with my RSS news reader.

The Share button is great, too. When I want to tweet about a new article I’ve posted on Xconomy, for example, clicking the Share button saves me at least four steps (copying the URL from a browser address bar, opening Tweetdeck, pasting the URL in to the compose area, then clicking on it to shorten it). On top of all that, RockMelt stores your account profile in the cloud, meaning that once you log in to the browser, your complete context—including your personalized Friend Edge and App Edge—follows you to any Mac or Windows computer.

RockMelt’s only technical shortcoming, at the moment, is that the startup is still figuring out how to feed an insatiably social browser all of the information it needs to thrive. If there’s a weak link in RockMelt’s scheme, it’s that every bit of data in the Edges has to be pulled in from an outside service like Facebook or Twitter. Heck, you can’t even log in to RockMelt without a Facebook account. So if the browser can’t contact Facebook for some reason, everything grinds to a halt. For at least a full day this week, the Edges wouldn’t load at all in my copy of RockMelt, and at several points the browser seemed to lose its connection with my Twitter account.

RockMelt’s leaders say that they’re aware of these issues, which are largely the product of greater-than-expected load on the startup’s servers, and that they’re working hard on fixes. In fact, in a blog post Wednesday, they coined a new term, “proudbarrassed,” to express their mixed emotions about how the software has been performing over its first week. “We’ve grown over 100x—probably 200x now—since Sunday, and we have another 10x waiting, so we are definitely experiencing some growing pains,” RockMelt’s Tim Howes told me yesterday. “All of those things are symptomatic of that, and we’re working around the clock to get those resolved.”

As I began to explain earlier, however, my main reservation about RockMelt has to do with what it represents, not how it works.

What RockMelt represents is a new lease on life for the desktop browser. There’s something important about that, of course. Today’s leading browsers—Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari—aren’t all that different from the original Mosaic and Netscape browsers, when you come right down to it. But the dogmas of the Web’s static past are inadequate to the social present. The whole notion of the browser needs to be updated to cope with today’s explosion of … 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*