Will RockMelt be Facebook’s Giant Killer?

RockMelt Browser Social Network for Facebook

Kara Swisher of All Things Digital calls it “a big wet kiss to Facebook.”
CNET’s Seth Rosenblatt wonders if it will truly replace Flock.

What is all the talk about?

RockMelt – the new web browser built ground up “for the way people live and work today.” According to its founders, RockMelt was built to “address people’s three top browsing behaviors: interacting with friends, consume news and information, and searching.” Well, that is if you are a Facebookaholic or believe that Facebook will be the operating system of the future.

While RockMelt is definitely a plus, it more or less offers a browser interface that lays over your Facebook experience, allowing you to more easily mix your web browsing content into your Facebook news stream and share directly with friends. A small enhancement on both the Chromium open source browser and Facebook.

RockMelt works by drawing your data from Facebook and then posits it into the cloud. You log into RockMelt via a Facebook sign-on button from no matter where you are. Then RockMelt delivers your friend data, layout, updates, bookmarks, settings and browsing data from the cloud each time you login.

Visually it pulls your friends out of the browser and keeps them in view on the left side of the browser while you pursue the web. RockMelt puts your apps, Facebook news feed and profile, Twitter feed and RSS feeds on the right side of the browser, somewhat ala Yoono.

RockMelt sidebars makes key objects visible and edgy.

RockMelt brings your social experience topside with 2 sidebar columns (see top pic).

The left sidebar is your “Friends Edge,” displaying your Facebook friends. It can sort by Alpha , Who’s Online, Favorited or Show All Friends. It shows their online status in green (online), yellow (busy) or gray (offline). Selecting a friend open a smaller window displaying their updates, a chat tab, and a Wall link to write on their wall.

The right sidebar is the “App Edge.” Here it displays your Facebook Profile, pages, Twitter and RSS feeds, or recent pages visited for easily drop in to your social networks.

It also shows more of the news stories, so you can get more of a preview without opening another tab or clicking over to the page.

RockMelt Social Network Browser: Twitter Edge

RockMelt Downers

Choice and lack of privacy. Users must first “Accept” to let RockMelt share information with Facebook in order to download the browser and can only activate RockMelt browser by signing in to Facebook. So now, RockMelt will be gathering even more of your personal information at Facebook like your complete search and browsing habits, RSS feeds and extensions used. While this may make RockMelt a “killer” acquisition target for Facebook with the exclusive Facebook integration, it limits user choice to exercise options over what information they want to “share” or make accessible to anyone online.

RockMelt purportedly does not disclose information about data collection. According to its founders, RockMelt will “provide a new, highly social browsing experience in line with the web habits of today’s computer users.”

However, users’ web habits are their own. That’s why we have a privacy policies to protect both web service companies and users, right?

If it wants to build a credible user base, RockMelt should adopt a policy of transparency and disclose what it collects and to whom it provides access to (third parties) in the cloud. Especially since it has close links to Facebook. RockMelt is partly funded by Marc Andreessen, the browser titan of  both Mosaic and Netscape. He sits on Facebook’s Board and his venture group Andreessen Horowitz is a major backer of RockMelt. With the recent privacy lawsuits against Facebook, it might be good for RockMelt to fully disclose upfront.

RockMelt Social Network Browser: Facebook Edge

There are other places for improvement. The browser is built for laptop/desktop screen use and not for mobile, but that is sure to come later. The News Feed doesn’t allow you to select who you want to follow, it instead uses the Facebook algorithm which chooses for you whose news you get. And RockMelt doesn’t yet support real-time Twitter updates.

While Flock was the first and formerly only social network browser, RockMelt can make browsing and using Facebook so much easier and fluid. A big plus for hardcore Facebookers and for this new entry into the browser market.

But is RockMelt really an evolution of the web browser? Will it be the giant killer to take down Google Chrome, IE or Firefox? Meh. Though it is an improvement anyway.

Give it a whirl here.

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