Does the world really need another new browser? My initial inclination is to say no. However, the five major browsers (sure, we’ll count Opera among IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari) are all based on a model for the internet we knew and loved in 1996. Sure, they’ve become faster and slicker and have added extensions and better functionality, but principally they still remain not much different. And the internet landscape has developed and evolved into a different beast in 2010 than it was in 1996.
A bunch of former Netscape developers are attempting to launch a slightly different browser, RockMelt, today that is based around our social lives on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Or more specifically, integrates our social lives directly into the web browser.
Mr. Howes and Mr. Vishria built RockMelt using Chromium, the same open source browser technology that Google used for Chrome. But unlike Chrome and other major browsers that run entirely on a user’s PC, RockMelt will manage users’ interactions with sites like Facebook and Twitter in its data center. To make that possible, users will be required to log into RockMelt.
“This is the beginning of what we think browsers will look like in the next decade,” Mr. Vishria said.
RockMelt is not the first browser built around social networking features. Three years ago, Flock introduced a browser that also makes it easy to share items with sites like Facebook and Twitter. While Flock gained a loyal following, it never broke into the big leagues of the browser market, though it has recently released a well-reviewed upgrade.
Industry insiders say that Flock may have been ahead of its time, since it was developed before social networks became mainstream. RockMelt’s timing may give it a better chance at success.
“If they build a browser that matches the way people work, it will get some adoption,” said John Lilly, the former chief executive of Mozilla. “But it is hard to make people change their habits.”
Basing the browser on the Chromium platform is a smart move, unfortunately, RockMelt looks too much like Chrome. Rather than build a new browser, it seems like they could have achieved the same functionality with a plug-in or extension. Am I wrong? (Yes, I probably am)
It’s pretty obvious from the video below that they’ve really integrated lots of nice features to mesh with how we use the internet today. RockMelt feels more like a hub, of sorts, instead of an internet browser. Whether I use it or not (probably won’t), it does feel like this is a logical progression for a cloud interface.