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Posted on April 22nd, 2011 by Barry Collins

RockMelt: Google Chrome, only better

RockMelt Home

When we last looked at the alternatives to the well-known web browsers, we weren’t particularly impressed by any of them. Now there’s a new kid on the block, RockMelt, that’s coming mighty close to replacing Google Chrome as my default web browser.

When I say replacing Google Chrome, that’s a little disingenuous, because RockMelt is built on the same Chromium browser core as Chrome. It’s Google Chrome with knobs on. But for social networking and news-feed fiends, they are very useful knobs indeed.

Social side

RockMelt’s interface differs from Chrome in two immediately obvious ways. Down the left-hand side runs a series of mini mug shots of your Facebook friends (you need to sign-in with a Facebook account before you can use the browser). A little circular light indicates if your friends are online, and you can conduct IM conversations with your Facebook friends from within the browser. It’s convenient if you natter away on Facebook constantly, but I’ve got a day job, and all this feature has really achieved is to provide a pervasive reminder of how old my friends are looking.

RockMelt Facebook

The bar down the right-hand side, the so-called App Edge, is a hundred times more useful. Here you can set up feeds for anything from your Twitter or Gmail accounts to your favourite news sites, and get a little iPhone-style numeric reminder of the number of items awaiting your attention.

The presentation of the feeds is immaculate. Embedded links in tweets to photos, videos and audio are displayed and playable from the browser window itself, meaning you never need to leave the Twitter feed. Likewise, you can comment, give the thumbs up and view photos in your Facebook stream, without ever having to visit the site. The only real issue for social networking fiends is that the Twitter app doesn’t have a built-in URL shortener.

RockMelt feeds

The App Edge also acts as an excellent feed reader for news sites. If you want more detail than is on offer from the news feed itself, you simply click on the link and the full story appears in the browser window, beneath the open feed.

Adding new feeds is easier than making an X-Factor contestant cry. The Add Feed button will automatically create a feed from the site you’re currently browsing, or suggest feeds from your most-visited sites.

Search

RockMelt also has a clever way of dealing with search. Unlike Google Chrome, which pummels search into the single address bar, RockMelt has a separate Search box – in a similar fashion to Firefox 4.

Type your search terms into the box, and a pop-up menu appears with the top 10 Google results. Click on any of those results and the page loads in the browser window, while keeping the search pop-up open on the right-hand side of the screen, so if the site you clicked on didn’t deliver the goods, you can move to another search result without having to hit the back button. RockMelt also appears to do some clever pre-caching with the search results, because pages load the instant you click on one of the search terms.

RockMelt search

Google is set as the default search engine, but you can change that in the RockMelt settings. What you can’t do, alas, is choose between different search engines without changing the default (unlike the drop-down search engine selector in Firefox 4), which is a little frustrating.

Chrome extensions

What about all those Chrome extensions and apps you’ve grown fond of?  RockMelt officially supports Chrome extensions and apps, although not always successfully. RockMelt throws extensions into that right-hand App Feed, not the top of the browser like Chrome does.

This creates its own problems, most notably that the pop-up extension windows are bigger than they are in Chrome, sometimes resulting in a rather ugly appearance. And because the thumbnails for the extensions are also slightly larger, icons can look a little blurry.

RockMelt extensions

Some extensions refused to work at all, including Create Link, a rather niche app for embedding custom HTML. Chrome Apps – which as I’ve mentioned in the past, are little more than glorified bookmarks anyway – worked fine.

Features

Aside from the odd extension glitch, there are other Chrome features absent from RockMelt. There’s no built-in Flash or PDF reader, meaning both plugins have to be downloaded separately from Adobe. Also missing is Chrome’s built-in audio player which allows you to start listening to podcasts right-away in the browser window without having to download the full audio file first.

On the credit side, however, RockMelt does have a newly released iPhone app that allows you to synchronise your feeds and bookmarks with your mobile (using your Facebook account for authentication). It also allows you to take advantage of one of RockMelt’s other neat features: View Later. Click on the little clock icon in the address bar, and RockMelt saves a link to the site so you can come back to read it when you’ve got more time, or on your iPhone on the way home.

Verdict

So does RockMelt elbow Chrome off my Windows taskbar? Yes and no. Yes, I’d be happy to run RockMelt as my default browser. The social networking tools are magnificent, and as someone who needs to keep a constant eye on breaking news, the feed updates are perfect.

RockMelt news feeds

But when I need to do specific tasks, such as editing web pages that benefit from that handy HTML extension, or play a podcast, I’ll still revert to Chrome. The beauty of RockMelt/Chrome being that both browsers fire-up instantly – unlike Internet Explorer or Firefox and their cloggy start-up procedures.

I’ve never considered running different browsers for different applications before. In that sense, at the very least, RockMelt is a game changer.

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30 Responses to “ RockMelt: Google Chrome, only better ”

  1. David King Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:42 am

    No link to the RockMelt website?

     
  2. Barry Collins Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Apologies. Link now added.

    Barry Collins

     
  3. Miles Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I’ve been using it for the last week and a half… and I’m not quite 100% sure of how I did the internet thing without it :D

     
  4. Clive Pugh Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Seems to be no use unless member of Facebook. Just keeps asking to sign in to facebook.

     
  5. Paul Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Used to use Chrome and IE8, but RockMelt does a better job than either and combines what I like in both. thanks.

     
  6. PSilva Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    What a fabulous piece of software. Hope it comes out of beta soon. I only kept Firefox for the feeds (I have about 20) and don’t like Google reader. Now I have the best of both Chrome and Firefox in one very clever package! Welcome, o Giant Feller.

     
  7. Patrick_foto Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Agree with Clive Pugh, seems to be useless unless you are a Facebook user/signed into Facebook. To say “It’s Google Chrome with knobs on. But for social networking and news-feed fiends, they are very useful knobs indeed.” Is over gilding the lily Barry when it’s usefulness is directly linked to usage of another (popular) piece of software. Now if the developers gave the option to choose which 3rd party application(s) to sign into that would be useful…I’d certainly try it with Flickr. For now it’s great for the Facebook user but pretty useless for the rest of us – and we are still the majority! http://facebook-advertising-marketing.com/how-many-users-does-facebook-have/

     
  8. Gio Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 12:49 am

    No linux build? :^(

     
  9. /. Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 1:11 am

    Flock. . .

     
  10. David Souther Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 1:14 am

    Remember when IE had toolbars? That’s why I like chrome. This looks like someone barfed in my browser. No thank you.

     
  11. nexus Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 1:54 am

    I’ve tried SlimBrowser and that is pretty fast when running on Win 7
    http://www.slimbrowser.net/en/

     
  12. Max Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 3:32 am

    lol r u serious? this sucks!

     
  13. betso Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 3:36 am

    I might be a minority having no Windows/Mac/iOS/Facebook. This browser is made for the majority, not for me!
    I can confirm that I feel fine without anything of these though. :)

     
  14. Tia Porter Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 5:14 am

    I love Rockmelt. I did a review of Beta 1. http://www.vintagegrrl.net/2011/01/07/social-browser-review-rockmelt/

    I will be doing an updated review at the end of the month (now that I’ve been using it for longer)

     
  15. no Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 6:07 am

    No thanks. This is just Chrome with a bunch of social networking garbage. The last thing I wanted stuffed in my browser is a bunch of social networking bloat.

     
  16. Barry Collins Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I should have mentioned a Facebook accoount was necessary to sign-in to the browser. Have now updated the blog. Thanks.

    Barry Collins

     
  17. R.S. Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I will wait until there is version for Linux. Or ignore it.

     
  18. sulfide Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    this looks terrible…like an advertising spammers dream. Noooooooo thanks.

     
  19. Ed Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    ANY PROGRAM that requires me to log into Facebook requires me NOT to use that program…a shame, RockMelt has possibilities.

     
  20. alex Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    ie9 (and soon enough 10) launch with the same instant speed you had complained about in the post. I figure if the social features are important this may be a good browser for you, but having tested it I don’t see why this couldn’t just be an addon as opposed to a full browser replacement.. pass.

     
  21. Gilbert Midonnet Says:
    April 23rd, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Logging into Facebook is close to a deal breaker for me. I have big concerns with Facebook’s privacy policy. Of course you could work around this problem creating a bogus / alternate Facebook account.

     
  22. joatmor Says:
    April 24th, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Was willing to try it until I saw it requires FB … that is an epic fail for me.

     
  23. Jordan Says:
    April 24th, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I’m sorry but, look at it. Google has eloquence and simplicity, and this is a complete cluster-f***. Google put a lot of thought into how to make a browser, and this is one of those mid-way mash-up browsers that will die within 6 months due to lack of adoption and Chrome getting better.

    Not to mention, how exactly is it fair to say “It’s faster than Chrome when you remove flash, adobe and other stuff”? What is the point when those are crucial to the majority of browsers?

    Also, if you want a social Chrome, just use flock. This review is flawed and worthless to anyone wanting to objectively choose a browser.

     
  24. Alan B Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 10:20 am

    If you’re the sort of person who spends their life on FB and Twitter and don’t mind sharing their location and all with world+dog then go right ahead with this browser.

     
  25. Tzvi Katzburg Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Horay, Barry, at last you discovered RockMelt! It’s been around for quite a long months, but the new beta is at last stable enough to work with it as a your main browser. But, the new chat windows still makes a little bit problems, especially when you use facebook with it’s chat windows. The new twitter app is really superb, but now most of the time you don’t need third side app to use twutter… any way, RockMelt is good, but it won’t become a real contander in the browsers war.

     
  26. Li Thotomist Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Oh dear, it’s a bit sad to have your Facebook friends on a web browser, it seems a bit “I’m still 15 underneath, don’t make me be a big boy”. Oh and look, you never have to leave your Twitter feed. That’s just plain sad. Saddo sad.

     
  27. Pete Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 9:24 am

    All you flock enthusiasts need to visit the Flock homepage.
    “Support for Flock browsers has been discontinued. We thank our loyal users around the world for their support, and we encourage the Flock community to migrate to one of the recommended web browsers listed below.”
    And all of you who say that the FB is a ‘deal-breaker’ – if you don’t want FB, then this browser isn’t meant for you. So don’t use it. Simples.

     
  28. davidb Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Sorry, don’t do facebook so won’t be using this.

    chow-chow

    David

     
  29. Richard Turpin Says:
    April 29th, 2011 at 6:46 am

    This is a juvenile browser like chrome it has lots of limitations and is aimed at the social networking crowd. Certainly not a serious browser for use by real people in the real world.

     
  30. Qwan Says:
    December 3rd, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    It’s actually ok. I hate using fb, so this means I can chat to people without going onto facebook personally (although it does technically log in to connect to rockmelt). It means I can have a few less pages up, and I’m the kind of person who has over 20 tabs up at a time so that helps. I actually like how it looks too. it frames the page nicely once you get used to it aha

     

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