29/12/2010

By Matthew Buckley, Link Analyst, Epiphany Solutions Ltd

I have been lucky enough to receive an invite to the Beta of the RockMelt browser.

The idea behind Rockmelt is that it will seamlessly integrate your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and let you interact with your friends directly from any webpage. It’s based on Chromium, the same browser that Google Chrome uses, so it’s fast!

The team at RockMelt have put together a short introduction video to show you around their new browser:

It makes use of the spaces at either side of most web pages to display the ‘Social Media’.

On the left, RockMelt lists all your friends that are currently online, along with a selection of offline contacts. On the right, it shows Facebook, Twitter and any RSS feed icons with a number that alerts you to the amount of unread updates. Modern laptop and desktop displays come in a widescreen format and this extra space is often only used when watching films. The overall effect is that your screen feels slightly more enclosed, but it’s easy to get used to after a short while.

These sidebars allow you to share and interact with your friends quickly. This is going to be the key to RockMelt’s success. Now you no longer need to login to Facebook or Twitter to chat to contacts. Other programs and websites offer a competing service that links both your accounts, but RockMelt does it in a way that fits into your browsing habits.

It’s phenomenally easy to share content with this browser. There is a dedicated button on the top to distribute your favourite video, website, or picture to your friends, or you can just drag and drop the current url onto one of your friends images. It is almost too easy. So use it with care because filling up your Facebook stream with lolcats isn’t going to go down very well with your friends.

The Facebook chat feature allows a transparent popup to appear on top of the current website. This is perhaps the most annoying feature of RockMelt, as these windows make the browser appear visually cluttered. Unfortunately this is going to happen with any sort of chat window, like MSN Messenger or Google Talk but it can always be fixed by appearing offline on Facebook chat.

I believe it’s a love or hate situation. Many people won’t want social integration with their browser but thousands will. Specifically some may feel that having constant connectivity to your friends is overwhelming and a distraction to your work (and maybe it is). But for those people that thrive on Facebook, the whole RockMelt experience is going to really appeal.

RockMelt looks good, functions smoothly and does everything you want, but the final hurdle that this new browser has to cross is a big one. Once people get used to their current browser, they are reluctant to switch to a new one unless there is a strong incentive to change. If you have ever tried to get your parents to change from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome, you will know what I mean! People will lose all saved passwords, history and bookmarks. Maybe the Facebook generation are tech savvy enough to see this as a minor short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain? Either way, RockMelt is headed for success.

Find out more about Epiphany Solutions Ltd at www.epiphanysolutions.co.uk