Friday, January 13, 2012

Rockmelt the social browser


RockMelt? What’s that? RockMelt is the new kid on the block. That’s why you may not have heard about it. RockMelt is essentially Chrome with social communication tools built into it. Tabs and bookmarks basically look the same. You can still use Google Chrome themes, preferences, bookmarks, etc. At the heart of RockMelt, it is Google Chrome, but it has bested Google Chrome by a couple lightyears of social networking communication goodies that no standardized web browser (like Apple’s Safari, Internet Explorer, Google chrome) will add to their web browsers without marginalizing their broad ambiguous user optimization experiences—meaning, don’t expect to see Chrome add features of their own that compete with RockMelt’s.
RockMelt on the Surface
RockMelt on the Surface looks like Chrome with social networking sidebar tools. Tabs are on top, bookmarks are just below the URL field, downloads are detailed at the bottom of the web browser window, extensions are those of Chrome…. If you like Chrome at all, you’ll like RockMelt for it’s Chrome qualities.
The Closer Look at RockMelt
When RockMelt is opening it starts by syncing with your Facebook account. I didn’t understand why at first. It does this to activate all the social networking tools AND simplify maintaining you browser settings and bookmarks. Thus, logging into your Facebook account from any computer with RockMelt will load all your most current bookmarks and browser preferences. This is super effortless on the users’ part; just log into Facebook and RockMelt takes care of the rest. You don’t even have to open Facebook in a tab of your web browser to do this; it’s automated and streamlined.
If you don’t have a Facebook account, go home and rethink your life. RockMelt won’t serve you very well if you’re antisocial.
On the left side of the web browser window (image to the left) you get live updates from all your Facebook friends. Click on any of them, and you get to see in a clean and simple popup window their latest updates, and have the ability to chat with them. Remember that you don’t need to be on a Facebook page in any of your browser windows/tabs to take advantage of these features. Anytime you’re anywhere on the Internet using RockMelt you have the tools at your disposal.
On the right side of your browser window (image to the right just below) you can add any RSS feeds of your liking. They appear selectable as little buttoned icons akin to iPhone app icons. Select any of them and up loads a popup window with a clean readable feed. Click on any link of an RSS feed and a new tab in your current browser window is added with the page of the link.
These two mentioned features are the most significant, but there are others that make RockMelt truly unique. The search field on the top right opens a drop down of the search results rather than opening a page up in Google Search. This simplified search list is clean and easy to read, and because it doesn’t include any of the fru-fru of a Google page, it’s just as easy to use as your index finger—assuming you’re good with your index finger. I cannot express enough that it makes great user-friendly sense.
Perhaps one of the finer qualities of RockMelt’s feature-full browser is that all the added features don’t cause any noticeable sluggishness. The load times, update processes, browser uploads and downloads are just as snappy as Google Chrome’s. Extensions, in general, can cause unwanted lag. These built-in tools do not.
Another fine aspect about RockMelt is that it’s robust at the outset. It’s doesn’t feel chintzy like many beta programs. RockMelt hasn’t crashed on me once. Chrome Extensions I’ve added work fine also.
The Perhaps Unlikable Aspect of RockMelt
To keep you updated by the minute in your Facebook feed, Growl notifications are active in the browser that popup in any given corner of your computer screen telling you what people are doing online. This is helpful about 10% of the time in my case. Usually though, if I want to know what everyone is up to…I never want to know what EVERYONE is up to EVER. See the problem with these non-stop Growl notifications? If you have 200 or more friends in Facebook this can impede your workflow with all the notifications rushing in the foreground of all my open windows on the computer display.
An example of an overwhelming number of Growl notifications (not my own desktop)
Thankfully, there is a way to deactivate the Growl notifications, and it’s fairly simple. What surprises me is that some don’t want to bother deactivating Growllike it appears to involve too much effort to do so. Personally, I don’t see that deactivating the Growl notifications is difficult whatsoever. So in my mind, the one not-so great feature of RockMelt is completely irrelevant to an appraisal of the app since it is in the power of the user to illuminate it entirely.
I like RockMelt. It has pained me in the past to make the transition to new web browsers to give them a fair trial period of testing, but with RockMelt I think users can seamlessly make the move without missing anything of relevance in other web browser tools and workflows.
If other web browsers want to keep up, they’ll have to appeal to more specific user workflows as RockMelt does. I don’t see any of the popular web browsers doing this. So for the meantime, RockMelt appears to be the uniquely individual and it doesn’t look like it will have significant competition anytime soon.

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