While I love the simplicity of Google, the world's number one search engine is just a small part of my browsing experience. An experience that is becoming more about interacting with people than with scrolling through web pages. As a social media user, I tend to rely regularly on my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to help me dig up information, and discover new things online.
For example, if I'm searching for the best pizza joint in Chicago, I'll often tweet for recommendations rather than Google something like: "Best Chicago Pizza." When I find what I like, I bookmark the restaurant's website and then jump back on Twitter to let my friends know I plan to try out one of their recommendations. This browser-based multi-tasking can easily be done across multiple tabs within Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome. However, the process is far from perfect and requires a lot of bouncing around.
RockMelt wants to change this. Their browser is "re-imagined" to make it easier to share, search, connect, and stay on top of news. Once you download the software, you sign in with Facebook to pull in your social network (so you can interact with them within the browser). What's interesting about RockMelt is that it's set up so it lives in the cloud, meaning that you can log in and use the browser anywhere the software is installed (and all your information and preferences will be waiting for you).
One of the big advantages is the sharing functionality. If you discover an article you like on The Globe & Mail, for example, you have functionality within RockMelt to post that link on Facebook or send it along as a message (or share on Twitter). Again, this is all done without opening up new tabs or downloading browser add-ons. If you want to check out what your Facebook friends are doing, you can see when they've updated their activity on the left-hand panel of RockMelt (where your top friends, those you communicate with most, sit in a nice neat list or "edge"). The lightweight RSS reader also makes it easy to stay on top of your favourite news sites.
Not surprisingly, the Twitter world is abuzz with RockMelt's launch. Although one tweeter (@ursonate) posted that his life is too boring for RockMelt, the majority of users are excited about the software's potential to bring social networking to the browser in a streamlined and easy-to-use way.
RockMelt is built on Chromium, the open source project behind Google's Chrome browser, and it has financial backing from Netscape founder Marc Andreesen. It's Mac and PC friendly, and available today as an early release.