RockMelt, the secretive company backed by Web browser pioneer Marc Andreessen, launched its first beta of the RockMelt browser Nov. 7 with a mind to create a more social Web surfing experience.
RockMelt lets users browse the Web similar to browsers Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera.
However, RockMelt lets users share information on Facebook and Twitter within the context of the browser window.
The new browser has framed the browsing experience-literally-with people's contacts from Facebook, tweet streams from Twitter and other Web content.
Facebook contacts appear along the left edge of the browser window after users log into RockMelt via their Facebook e-mail and password, thanks to the browser's integration with Facebook Platform.
The right side of RockMelt includes buttons for accessing the Facebook News Feed, Facebook Profile, Twitter tweet stream and timeline.
An "add feeds" button in the right edge bar lets users further customize RockMelt by adding RSS feeds for favorite Websites. Tired of using Google Reader? RockMelt allows users to access their feeds right within the social context.
RockMelt also offers push notifications, alerting users when a new story comes out, a friend posts new pictures or a new video is available.
Why surface all of these social connections within the browser? Easier information sharing.
Today, people tend to open multiple browser windows within browsers, including one to search Google.com, one to check tweets on Twitter and one to connect with friends on Facebook. With RockMelt, users can post status updates to Facebook and tweets to Twitter without going to those Websites.
RockMelt enables users to take URLs from Google, RSS feeds and other content they find while surfing in RockMelt and blast the content out to their Facebook and Twitter feeds, all with a single click, without having to jump from one browser tab to the next.
Because Facebook friends are integrated directly into the browser, users can easily pop open a chat window to message them.
Search is a treat in RockMelt, too, as the browser lets users preview search results in Google, Yahoo, Bing or other engines, before clicking on them.
RockMelt, built with the Chromium open source code that supports Chrome, has a fine pedigree. The company was formed in November 2008 by Tim Howes and Eric Vishria, both of whom worked with chief RockMelt backer Andreessen at Opsware.
News about RockMelt began bubbling up in earnest in August 2009, but the company operated in stealth mode until this launch, which is a limited beta.
The browser will try to compete against Chrome, Firefox and IE, something the pioneering social browser Flock failed to successfully do when it launched in 2007.