SAN FRANCISCO, 9 NOVEMBER 2010 - News junkies and Facebook addicts take note: the new social-focused browser RockMelt just might be for you. After spending the day using RockMelt, I found the new Chromium-based browser to be a great way to keep tabs on my friends, family and favorite news sites and blogs throughout the day. RockMelt relies on two sidebars, called "Edges," that sit on the far right and left of your browser window. The one on the left is known as the Friend Edge and shows you a list of your Facebook friends that are online. The right side, called the App Edge, includes quick launch access to your favorite sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs, Pandora, news sites and blogs.
Despite all that activity, however, RockMelt doesn't get in your way and lets you do your browsing in peace without hassling you every time a news source or social network gets an update.
RockMelt is still in limited beta, you can sign up for the wait list here, so it's by no means a finished product yet. But here are a few first impressions of this new take on merging your favorite parts of the Web with your browser.
RockMelt can get a little wonky with extensions, depending on which ones you use. Password manager, LastPass worked perfectly, but Instapaper, the extension that creates a text-only version of an article to read later, was a little shaky. Sometimes Instapaper would work perfectly, other times not so much.
RockMelt's Slim Edges
RockMelt's Edges are a great alternative to bulky persistent sidebars that can take away a big chunk of your Web browsing real estate. The Friend Edge displays your online Facebook friends using their profile pictures in a slim line down the left side of the window. The App Edge on the right uses each Website's favicon--the little icon you see in your browser tab when visiting each site.
This is a vastly different approach from Flock (the original social Web browser) or Yoono, the social sidebar for Firefox. Both of those products rely on large sidebars that take up a sizeable chunk of your browser window. You can shrink down Flock and Yoono, of course, but the content inside the sidebar either doesn't resize or looks awkward in a sidebar smaller than the default size. This makes it much harder to view and access content, which kind of defeats the whole point of using a social-focused product.
RockMelt still takes a bite out of the real estate for your main browser window, but it takes a much smaller chunk than Flock or Yoono while still being useful.
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