The RockMelt browser project was of particular interest to me back when it was first announced in 2010. The notion of browsers with social networking integration is not a new concept, but it looked like RockMelt could be one of the first to really do it well. The development team, backed by Netscape founder Marc Andreesen, seems remarkably enthusiastic about their product and has continued to aggressively improve the browser. Still, over time the novelty of RockMelt was lost as its Chrome underpinnings continue to frustrate me. Plainly, I have a faulty Flash player that no matter how many times I reinstall has a tendency to crash on all my Chrome browsers. Firefox and Safari have their fair share of crashes as well, but Chrome seems to fail religiously. My hope was the some update to the browser would fix it but here we are at Version 11 and things seem to be the same.
Regardless, it’s hard to argue that Chrome 11 and its derivatives are powerhouse browsers when Flash player plays nice. With 4 browsers on my computer, it gets very hard to decide between them and I am constantly juggling Safari 5, Firefox 4 (plagued by slow downs over extended use), Chrome 11, and now RockMelt Beta 2. Beta 2 was released about a month ago but I completely missed the announcement. Since Chrome 11’s release a few days ago, it seemed pertinent to see if RockMelt has had any major improvements with the refreshed underpinnings. Boy oh boy, it sure has.
The RockMelt team has worked extensively to hammer out stability issues and performance flaws through numerous updates in the first Beta. Beta 2 is all about fixing their features for the future and it shows. The “edges” which maintain access to your social media and RSS feeds have become far more powerful. Each icon is more of an application than simple feed aggregator. The Twitter icon is now a full blown Twitter client, allowing you to Tweet, retweet, look at messages and @mentions all from the same window. The chat infrastructure has also improved to handle multiple conversations better (a greatly appreciated improvement over the old, frustrating system). There is also a full-blown Youtube and Tumblr app that lets you watch videos and post updates right from the Edge. RockMelt has worked very hard to make the Edges powerful additions for applications, which plays great into Google’s attempt at pushing the Chrome App store. One last great feature is View Later. When browsing Tweets, Facebook updates or any article from your RSS, you can click View Later and pin that content to an icon at the top to look at that content later on. It’s a fantastic thing for a guy like me who is often too busy to go through several hundreds of RSS posts in a day.
For a first release though, the RockMelt app is pretty nice and can get much better pretty rapidly. The team is doing a great job in improving both applications, which are both still free and pretty strong for Betas. Glad to see this promising software series continue to get stronger.