Rockmelt may change the way you think about your browser [REVIEW]

Let’s face it, browsers haven’t changed all that much. Since the first browsers were launched, improvements have been made but nothing really ground breaking has emerged. Google Chrome and Firefox have probably come the closest to changing a user’s experience of viewing the web, with increased speed, adaptable looks, and cool add-on’s.

Internet Explorer has been left in the dust, and I firmly believe the only reason it still has a market share of around 20 percent is due to it being the standard browser on the world’s biggest OS – but that’s another story. With all the technical advancements taking place around us, and especially on the web, you would expect browsers to have advanced further, but up to this point they haven’t. Enter Rockmelt — the browser we have all been waiting for.

Now, I don’t expect you to share my fan boy like enthusiasm for this product just yet. I got my invitation to download the beta earlier last week, and after downloading the sizeable file (for a browser), I was in awe.

Built on top of Chromium, the open source browser behind Google Chrome, it’s an aesthetically pleasing addition to your desktop. Its got rounded corners, drop shadows here and there, the whole web 2.0 package. But browsers are for more than ogling over. Here is where Rockmelt shines.

Firmly based around social networking, Rockmelt connects seamlessly to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and integrates them within the browser. On the left side of the browser all your online friends are listed and you can easily chat to them in separate pop up windows (leaving your main browser uncluttered), as well as message them and write on their walls. On the right side, unobtrusive updates from Facebook or Twitter get displayed.

When chatting to friends, their personal news feeds are shown, as well as your chat, and links can be easily shared in a number of ways. For example, while chatting and browsing you come across something that gets your attention, you can click the Share button at the top of the page to post it to your wall, or to send it as a message.

Alternatively, you can message your friends and click “insert link to current page” , or simply drag images to whoever you want to share them with.

Any of your RSS feeds can be added to the right sidebar, including email, with simple and subtle notifications shown. When clicking on any of the social networks or subscribed sites, a side window appears in the browser allowing you to view the latest articles’ summaries, without affecting your current page, and with one click they are opened in a new window.

Small things like videos being embedded into chats and feed views adds the icing to this cake. There are other cool features, such as a quick search where you type what you’re looking for, and on hitting return your results get shown on top of the current window you are viewing. In my book, the guys at Rockmelt have simply outdone themselves. It’s sophisticated, classy and makes browsing fun.

Now, with all of these new features, and the product still in beta, you would assume that it’s not all smooth sailing, and you’d be right – to a point. I battled to find ways of sending tweets and composing status updates from within the browser. Eventually I found it but it wasn’t particularly intuitive or easy to do.

Furthermore, the constant checking of feeds (your social accounts, and any blogs you have added), can slow down your connections and be quite resource-intensive.

Most of the critiscism levelled at the browser has been that it is intensely distracting and irritating. As soon as someone starts a chat with you, a window pops up on top of whatever you are viewing. If the chat is off this won’t happen, but there is no in-betweener which is disappointing. It would be nice to be able to filter your options so that you can go online to interact with certain people exclusively. Admittedly, as a work browser, Rockmelt might not be for everyone.

But Rockmelt has definitely put in a game changer here, and I wonder how the market will react? Are people all that keen on combining social networking into everything they do online? The US$10-million investment into this company seems to say, “Yes”. Social networking is growing at a phenomenal rate, and with 250-million daily active Facebook users, and Facebook usage accounting for 25% of all internet traffic in the US, there is definitely a market for closer browser integration.

It may not be a browser for serious research or quiet reflection, but I have a hunch that the social masses out there will jump at using Rockmelt and the chance to bridge the gap between passive online surfing and an interactive experience directly connected with social networking.

I have a hunch this browser will change the way we use the internet. It makes everything easy, it brings social networking closer and more in line with everything else we do on the web.

Watch the video below to get a better idea of how it all fits together:



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