Could RockMelt Become the New Third Party in the Browser Campaigns?

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you never know where you’ll end up. It’s sloppy and messy, but it allows you to explore so much. It would be really sad if these curated, limited, siloed app experiences win.”

At the same time, Vishria acknowledges that mobile device manufacturers and app developers have given users elegant, streamlined ways to ingest and share information—something browser builders and Web developers haven’t yet fully figured out. “What we are trying to do here is combine the beauty and elegance and simplicity of the app experience with the messy genius of the Web,” he says. “But it’s a complex problem, and I will be the first to tell you that we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible.” (RockMelt offers an iPhone app that’s not a full browser, but rather a mobile version of the App Edge that syncs up with your desktop browser. I asked Vishria if the startup is working on something for the iPad, where a full social browser would make more sense as an alternative to Safari. “We are always thinking about it” was his cagey response.)

The "social omnibox" in Rockmelt Beta5

For now, in Vishria’s view, mobile devices and desktop computers are still used for very different purposes. “Nobody uses their iPad or their iPhone seven hours a day,” he notes. “When you are spending that long at your computer, the messiness of the Web becomes super valuable. It’s when you’re spending five minutes in line at Starbucks or 30 minutes in bed flipping through stuff that these mobile, more simplistic, but definitely more elegant experiences come into play.” But over the next two the three years, Vishria thinks, “There’s going to be a massive crossover” between mobile and desktop platforms. “That’s a world that we think about a lot-what does a browser look like in that Wild West.”

With fewer than a million weekly active users, RockMelt has a long way to go before it becomes a serious threat to Microsoft, Mozilla, or Google. But Vishria says the company is more preoccupied with engagement rates than with the raw user count. “Our average user uses RockMelt for seven hours a day, opens apps on the App Edge 26 times per day, and has seven chat conversations,” he says. And the Social Reading feature is proving popular: a new article is shared almost once every second. “We are super optimistic and excited about where the numbers are,” Vishria says. “That’s what we are focused on-that and on making the product absolutely killer. If we do that, we should be able to get massive adoption.” Or, perhaps, at least, to the status of viable third party.

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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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