By Tim Shi
This past Monday, Web start-up RockMelt launched their new browser in a private beta. RockMelt is a brand new Web browser built on the Chromium OS (the same platform Google’s Chrome is built on) and is designed to be “the social browser.” The program is completely Facebook oriented and requires the user to log in through Facebook Connect before being able to use the browser. Once logged in, users can do pretty much everything on Facebook right from the browser. Facebook chat shows up on the left side, along with buttons for status updates, tweets and a search bar. Links can be shared through Facebook or Twitter using the share button at the top and feeds from your favorite sites (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) can be read using the applications on the right. Additionally, the browser has a cool new feature that gives previews of your searches in a drop down box. Each of these links are preloaded by the browser, allowing you to click through links to quickly see the age before deciding which site to navigate to.
The coolest feature in my opinion is the ability to add apps to the bar on the right. These apps can show feeds from sites you check daily and put the updates within easy reach. New blog posts can be browsed through the pop-out windows, and e-mail accounts can be easily checked all without actually having to navigate to the pages. Unfortunately the feeds are not updated quickly, and tweets come in about 40 minutes late.
RockMelt has a lot of cool features, but the browser is definitely still a beta with bugs and can be unwieldy in certain aspects. Although the idea of having Facebook chat built into the left bar of the browser is cool and useful, the fact that it only displays tiny thumbnails of profile pictures makes it difficult to click on the right friend you want to chat. Status updates are also difficult to find and post, and attempts at writing long status updates fail to update Facebook. Additionally, the live stream for Facebook doesn’t take into account your viewing preferences, so updates from friends you’ve chosen to hide from your news feed spam the stream.
Bottom line: The idea of Facebook integration into a browser is a smart move in the social network-focused era, but usability issues definitely need to be addressed.