In a hard place
In the middle of last year we reported on a new browser - RockMelt - that was noteworthy primarily because it had attracted the backing of Marc Andreessen, the guy behind Netscape who is now a VC.
Over the weekend, after two years of development, a blog post released the browser into a limited public beta. "Hello Interwebs! The rumors are true..." said the post. "Starting today, we're offering access to an early version of RockMelt, a new browser designed around you and how you use the Web."
Sounds like pretty standard marketing dribble so far, but it turns out that these claims of user-centricity actually have some substance. The key innovation seems to be navigation/tool bars on either side of the browser window that put easy access to social networking as a priority - especially sharing stuff with your ‘friends'.
If you think you can tolerate two minutes of the kind of self-satisfied acoustic guitar strumming that we've come to associate with every new Apple miracle, have a look at the video below. You'll see that two things are most prominent - a ‘share' button and Facebook logos.
This isn't a coincidence as RockMelt seems already to be referred to as a ‘Facebook browser'. It must be noted, however, that it's built on Chromium - the open source project running parallel to Google's Chrome browser - so there are likely to be some similarities there. You log into this browser via Facebook, and that sets the foundation for everything else, but the search feature is powered by Google.
"Because RockMelt is the first browser you log into, it unlocks your Web experience with your Facebook friends, your feeds, your favorite services, even your bookmarks and preferences," said the blog. "RockMelt is also the first browser to be fully backed by the cloud. This means you can access your personal browsing experience from anywhere, and you get quick updates from the people and sites that are important to you."
You can sign-up for early access to the beta here.