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The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

Rockmelt: A look at a social browser used by a social journalist and not necessarily a programmer

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A quick disclaimer: I do not claim to be a technical genius or a Web-savvy programmer who understands programming language, or even HTML (although I am looking to learn more on that in due time). That’s why my lack of technical knowledge makes me a great candidate to review a browser designed for people who aren’t as techy as can be.

Which brings me to Rockmelt, the new Web browser currently in beta from the same people who created Netscape in the 1990s (a browser I will admit I used very little). The browser is designed to maximize social media and sharing, which makes it a target of usage by journalists alike. Because I’m always trying to find a good browser and learn more doing so, and because I’m always wanting to figure out how to share things easier online (without a smartphone, mind you), Rockmelt seemed like a great package of it all. I’ve not written much in reviews in my life, but I thought I’d give it the ol’ intern try:

Acquisition: Because it’s still in beta, invites are still needed to download Rockmelt. All one must do is sign up via Facebook Connect on the browser’s website and an invite will pop up in a short time period; mine was a few days. You can also get an invited from a Rockmelt user; each comes with three that others can download immediately.

Use: Rockmelt is built on Google’s Chromium, which means if your a user of Google Chrome (which I have been loyally since Day 1), you’ll be right at home with Rockmelt’s basic functions. No drop menus, and the tabs are similiar, as well as Google integration in the URL bar, so all you need to do is type a search term. Added bonus to this: in addition to search terms, if you begin searching for someone on Facebook, it searches through your friends as well. The bookmark bar remains similiar, although if you want bookmarks displayed, you’ll have to pull them out of the folder, which is slightly painstaking.

New features: But unlike Chrome, Rockmelt integrates a search bar (something I’m not sure you need) and the best addition, a “Share” button. This button is great for sharing pages on both Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social sites, although I don’t use any other frequently enough to add them. It shortens URLS using its own shortener, me.lt, so no bit.ly for those who like to track clicks. Still, the button is a plus for people wanting quick access to share to several networks.

The “Edge”: The real meat of the server lies around the window. Called the “edge,” it consists of chat contacts currently on Facebook on the left, and an RSS feed on the right.

First, the Facebook chat edge: For me, it’s not a huge deal, seeing how I don’t use Facebook chat all that often, except for certain people. Although when using the edge’s chat function, the window pops up and is reminiscent of iChat. A nice function to use chat without having to be in Facebook.

On the other side of the browser is the tiled RSS buttons, as well use Twitter and Facebook buttons for updates. The RSS function is one I’ve jumped on, because I’ve been looking for a most effective RSS reader, and using a separate tab for, say, Google Reader, can be tedious for me. Each tile updates with the number of new updates, so you don’t have to click the tile to see if there’s new material. The other buttons, for Facebook and Twitter, are so-so. Facebook’s tile is decent, with the ability to comment on others’ statuses built in. The Twitter button is a disappoint to me; I’m used to using Chromed Bird, and wish Rockmelt would have designed a button more like the Chrome extension, which I’ve used religiously for months.

A major downside I’ve noticed with the browser is it freezes frequently, a frustrating faction I attribute to its beta status. Overall though, I’m enjoying using the browser, although would use it more for less urgent needs, such as surfing and sharing at home, rather than serious database research. But for the social journalist in me, the browser is a nice blend of social media, simplicity and surfing.

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Written by David Veselenak

November 19, 2010 at 12:55 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with , , ,

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