RockMelt Taps Facebook Timeline With Social Omnibox

RockMelt beta 5 leverages Facebook friends for the new omnibox browser bar and brings a ticker to the Social Reading app that will work with Facebook Timeline.

Social Web browser startup RockMelt launched its fifth beta version Dec. 20, improving the browser's search bar, adding a ticker to its Social Reading application and improving its new tab page.

RockMelt is based on Google's Chromium open-source browser (currently version 14) and brings social utilities to the browser window. Users are free to browse the Web using Google, message and chat with Facebook friends, tweet from Twitter, and pin applications to the application edge for easy access.

The application frames the browsing experience with people's Facebook contacts along the left edge of the browser window after users log into RockMelt via their Facebook e-mail and password. The right side of RockMelt includes buttons for accessing the Facebook content, and Twitter tweet stream.

RockMelt CEO Eric Vishria, who helped the company land $30 million in funding in June from Accel Partners, Khosla Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, said more than 1.4 million users have tried RockMelt, with several hundreds thousand users accessing it on a weekly or monthly basis.

RockMelt hitched itself to Facebook's wagon more closely this year in June, letting users confirm friend requests and compose and reply to Facebook messages directly within RockMelt.

To further leverage that partnership and take advantage of Facebook's new Timeline user interface, RockMelt has added the ability for users to search their Facebook friends from the omnibox, which is Google's name for the browser's search bar.

Users may just type their friend's name into the Social Omnibox to navigate to their Timeline, or start a chat with the friend from RockMelt. Users may similarly search for and navigate directly to applications from the browser bar.

RockMelt's New Tab page has been refurbished to let users open a new tab to see their Facebook friends' pictures, profiles and birthday reminders.

There is also now a ticker for RockMelt's Social Reading utility, which highlights friends' reading activities in the top-right corner of RockMelt. In a few weeks, stories read by RockMelt users on ESPN, New York Times, TechCrunch and other sources will be pushed to the Timeline ticker on Facebook, Vishria told eWEEK.

The App Edge now supports scrolling, allowing users to add as many apps as they prefer. Moreover, RockMelt built an "App Center" where users can click on the icons of the sites in the App Center to start getting instant news. Check out the App Center in this blog post.

RockMelt will automatically upgrade over the next few days, but users can download it now if they don't want to wait.

2012 should be an interesting year for RockMelt, in a browser market where Chrome is squeezing share from Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer.

RockMelt would love to become more than the bit player it is in terms of market share. It's got some decent user engagement and some loyal users, according to stats Vishria shared with eWEEK:

  • RockMelt users spend on average 7 hours a day using the browser. This makes sense if you think about it. RockMelt has essentially sandwiched a browser window between Facebook and Twitter, and topped it with Google search. It's a search, social sandwich, the ultimate social browsing utility. Why would anyone leave if they didn't have to?
  • 60 percent of RockMelt users are under the age of 25.
  • RockMelt users access the browser from 1.3 devices, which means they are leveraging the browser's identity-based cloud capabilities to grab their content from any computer or iPhone.
  • The average user keepers 12 applications in the RockMelt application edge on the right, and access them 26 times a day.
  • The average user conducts seven chat sessions a day, up from three sessions six months ago.