Product Review: Rockmelt, AKA “The Facebook Browser”

RockMelt made mild waves in the tech world when it was put into beta a couple weeks ago. It is the latest and greatest manifestation of how vital social networking has become to the internet experience.

RockMelt is Google Chrome with Facebook and Twitter. Google Chrome has open-source code, meaning that any developers can use it to create their own project. Some enterprising devs decided that what internet users needed was more Facebook! And Twitter! And anything else that has an update feed (almost everything). They created RockMelt, and I was able to get an early copy and try it out for a week. Here are the results.

If you’ve used Chrome, most of RockMelt won’t be a surprise. It’s nearly identical. In fact, there are only three differences.

1. The left-hand “Facebook bar.”

This is basically Facebook chat with a different interface. All your friends are listed alphabetically, whether they’re online or not. You can also set aside special friends by starring them. You can choose to see only their online status. When you click someone’s name a rather large window comes up. Half of it is chat and half is basically the person’s profile. You can detach the chat window and it becomes separate. If you don’t, it pretty much ruins your browsing experience. The chat bar is clunky…why would I want to see my friends who aren’t online in the chat window? And why do I have to see their profile when I’m chatting them? Also, after about three days mine gave up entirely. Now it says everyone is online. They aren’t.

2. The right-hand “feed bar.”

On the right, you get live updates from Facebook, Twitter, and anything else you enter. A little number grows as my friends Facebook and tweet, and as my favorite blogs post. If you check your Facebook home page as often as I do, and read blogs and news sites often, this feature is mostly useless. It only tells you what you already know (or will as soon as you check the site in question).

3. The search bar and share button.

The search bar SUCKS. Instead of a live, adaptive search bar like Chrome, it’s an incredibly dated dropdown menu. I’m not talking 2006 dated. I’m talking 1999 dated. Major fail. Thankfully, you can bypass this annoyance by searching in the URL bar. THAT is a Chrome carryover feature that I sorely missed when I got fed up with RockMelt and switched back to Safari. Also, there’s a share button. So you can put that video of mating koalas on Facebook.

Bottom line: Yes, we’re addicted to Facebook and Twitter. I, personally, need my minutely fix. So the fact that RockMelt is just plain bad is kind of embarrassing. Chrome + Facebook + Twitter = Success. The math was that easy. But the makers of RockMelt didn’t just make a less-than-mediocre browser, they changed the universal rules of mathematics so that the above equation doesn’t work! If you’re like me, you visit those sites enough that having them integrated in your browser really isn’t important. RockMelt didn’t connect me with my Facebooks and Tweets any more than I already was. Possibly less, actually. Also, Chat was always on. Even for me, that got a little excessive.

Bottom line: 1.5 stars out of 5. Avoid like a Wampa on Hoth, or rather like a car accident that will give you scars that will force Lucas add the Wampa to the movie to explain them. I guess what I’m saying is, stick with whatever you have, unless of course it’s Internet Explorer.

I downloaded RockMelt because Chrome was messing up the pictures I was viewing, displaying them with terrible resolution. After two days, RockMelt had developed the same annoying tendency. It’s so nice to be back on a stable, if slower browser.

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