I was prepared not to like RockMelt.
After all, PC browsers are so five years ago. Sure, FireFox was exciting back when it was first challenging Microsoft's Internet Explorer , and Apple and Google have done nice work with Safari and Chrome. But I don't think anyone would argue that browsers are anywhere near the top of the list of exciting things Apple, Google and Microsoft are working on. The buzz is in smartphones and cloud services. Browsers? *Yawn.*
So when I met RockMelt co-founders Eric Vishria and Tim Howes recently, and heard them pitch their social browser, I was skeptical to say the least. Especially since I had also met the folks who ran Flock, another social media browser that died earlier this year. Flock was cute, but too slow and jumbled for me to want to use it. How could RockMelt be much better?
Then I tried it. Wow.
Not only is RockMelt fast — it's built on Google's well-regarded Chromium browser code — it's also very well designed. Facebook is the first-class citizen here, with status update alerts appearing to the left, friends available for chat on the right, and other alerts on top. Twitter updates are also available through the left column. And managing all these services is easy; click on one, and a pane appears that lets you view and reply to updates without mucking up what you're doing inside your main browser window.
Will RockMelt be a good business? Some pretty smart people think so, including the folks at Andreesen Horowitz, First Round Capital and Khosla Ventures. For now it's pulling in revenue the old-fashioned way: through search ads.
But founders Vishria and Howes see other revenue possibilities down the line, like gaming (where in-app purchases are surging), and commerce. I'll let them worry about that. I'll busy myself downloading the free browser on all my machines.
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