The rumor mill has been buzzing for months about the imminent arrival of a new “Facebook browser” called RockMelt.
Well, it really does exist, and it’s here. RockMelt is being released as a limited public beta Sunday. Anyone can sign up to test it out, but the release will be throttled so as not to overload the cloud-based components of the app. RockMelt will be doling out download links as quickly as it can manage on a first-come, first-served basis.
The two founders, CEO Eric Vishria and CTO Tim Howes, demonstrated RockMelt to Wired a few days before Sunday’s launch.
It’s based on Chromium, so it inherits Google Chrome’s speed, looks, and basic functionality on both Mac and Windows.
And while its Facebook integration runs deep, RockMelt is not exactly a Facebook browser. It’s a social web browser, allowing you to post links, videos and status updates to both Facebook and Twitter (that’s it for now, but more services will be added later). There are also built-in clients for consuming your Facebook feed and managing multiple Twitter feeds, a chat client, and lightweight RSS reader. It does use your Facebook account to personalize the experience, but its reach is broader than just Facebook.
We’ve seen browsers custom-built for the social web before, most notably Flock, which launched as a MySpaced-up version of Firefox. Mozilla experimented with Ubiquity, an in-browser tool for posting to different social sites and interacting with web services. There are a number of add-ons that can embed social networking dashboards into the browser for you. These tools have grown in popularity as we’ve struggled to manage the ever-increasing flow of links, media and bits shared by our online friends.
So, the idea isn’t original. And RockMelt doesn’t sport a complete re-invention of the browser interface, either. But it is very streamlined, and there are some key elements that people who live and breathe the social web will find intriguing.