When I reviewed the first beta of the RockMelt Web browser last year, I found it to be a somewhat interesting example of a social networking browser and one that did a very good job of integrating with Facebook.
During that time the RockMelt browser has continued to slowly improve and recently the company released a new beta 2 version of the browser that adds several new capabilities.
This newest version of RockMelt comes shortly on the heels of the announcement that Flock, a pioneer in social networking Web browsers and RockMelt's main competition, would stop development and be acquired by game developer Zynga. So, on the one hand, RockMelt has the market mainly to itself, but is it one that they can survive in?
While the long-term survival of browsers geared towards social networking is still up in the air, by itself RockMelt is still an interesting product that is very attractive to those users who spend a lot of time on Facebook.
As before, RockMelt still offers a nice integrated interface that makes it easy to view Facebook friends' updates, share any Web content that you are viewing, and keep track of updates on websites and Twitter. And RockMelt is still based on the Google Chrome Web browser, meaning that browsing experience is fast and generally very good.
While the older version of RockMelt did a good job of making Facebook content accessible, it wasn't perfect. For example, carrying out multiple chats within RockMelt could quickly become a confusion of open windows.
In the latest version, chats in RockMelt work like they do in Facebook itself, meaning that if you open multiple chats, boxes for each will display at the bottom of the screen. This is a welcome change, both for its similarity to Facebook and for the easier chat management that it brings.
One new feature in RockMelt that I found to be very useful is called View Later. This adds a small clock icon to the address bar and, if you click on this while viewing a Web page, it makes it very easy to, well, view the page later.
Clicking on the View Later app in the right-hand bar of RockMelt displayed a list of all the pages I had marked to view later. From here I could easily open the pages or share them in Facebook or Twitter. And a page can be easily removed from View Later simply by clicking on the clock icon either in the address bar or in the pop-up View Later window.
Twitter integration, which was pretty barebones in the original version, has also been updated in the latest version of RockMelt. Now it works more like a full-fledged Twitter client, making it possible to do tasks such as handle direct messages and edit retweets.
Besides the new features in this beta, some other new capabilities were added since the last review. These included a new YouTube app that made it possible to view videos and channels directly from the right-hand bar of RockMelt.
I also realized that the constant pop-ups that RockMelt displays whenever a new status update is published by a friend can be very distracting. Luckily, I found that these notifications could be turned off from within the browser options window in the Edges section.
For many users, the functionality of RockMelt won't seem to be much of a value-add over standard browsers and could even be too distracting. However, for those who are heavy Facebook users, RockMelt might be the perfect tool for surfing the Web without ever getting too far from the social network.
To try out the RockMelt beta for Windows or Mac, or check out the Apple iPhone version of the software, visit the RockMelt website.