Earlier this week, I received my invitation to use the RockMelt browser and so decided to give it a go. It was a relatively quick download and I was ready to go.
My first impression was – hey, this is Google Chrome. In fact, it’s based upon the code from the Chromium project and so the initial look and feel shouldn’t have come as a surprise. RockMelt claims that it will be more than just a piece of software – it will be a way of pulling together your web experience. Where have we seen that before? Notably in the Flock browser of which I was a real fan. However, development for the Macintosh seems delayed so this may be just what I’m looking for.
My internet needs are relatively small – I want to browse securely, I use Facebook, Twitter, and Diigo/Delicious routinely. It would be nice to find a way to streamline the experience. To date, that has meant downloading and installing Extensions to Google Chrome. RockMelt claims to have that done for me and more.
Since it’s built on Chromium, it make sense that I deck it out like I do. That means adding my favourite extensions like AdThwart, Shareaholic, and Evernote. And, of course, I need to get a little theme action going – my current choice is the Robot/Android theme. I also pin my frequently used tabs to the top. It just takes a few minutes and I’m ready to go.
RockMelt displays the content relatively inobtrusively. The extensions and social services that I use are on the right “edge” and a sampling of the folks I’m friends with on Facebook on the left.
They’re all just one click buttons with quick access just a mouse click away. The Facebook access is nice; it’s really quick with no advertising. The Twitter access is pretty basic and certainly has nowhere near the power and functionality of Seesmic Desktop. But there’s something very functional about just opening the browser and being automatically logged in to all of these services.
One of the things that a good learner does is share with others what’s happening. At the top of the browser window a “Share” button provides one click access to sharing whatever is open in the browser. A very nice touch.
And then, there’s search. My initial thought when looking at the browser was that we’re retrograding here. Instead of the Omnibar that Google Chrome has, there’s actually a search box. Whaaaa? Here is the nicest feature so far.
The Omnibar is certainly there. Type a URL or a search term and you’re searching as you might with Google Chrome. But, if you type a search term in the search box, a search with results pops up in a window on top of the current page! This was a feature that I took a shining to immediately. Rather than leaving the current page to do a search or to open another tab, do the search on top of what’s currently open. It’s a big jump in productivity.
Often, I don’t need to go to the actual website to get the information that I need. The quick summary that a simple search is sometimes enough.
At this juncture, RockMelt is still early in development and only accessible by invitation. As such, it wouldn’t be fair to get into benchmarks comparing it to other browsers but there’s no noticeable performance delays for my use of the browser. The whole design is indeed made with the web and the social web in mind. It’s really worth a download to try a different type of experience. Whether you stay with it or choose similar add-ons/extensions to your existing browser will be your choice. RockMelt does give you a good glimpse of what the entire browsing experience could me.