Review of a Facebook browser

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OK, probably one of the oddest names for an application that is supposed to revolutionise social media as we know it, but that’s enough about copy writing for the moment.

Rockmelt is a solution to a rumour that has been circulating for a while now – “Will Facebook produce their own browser?” (Note that a number of people think that Facebook will also create their own phone, but that’s another article altogether).

Rockmelt is a web browser that is based on Google’s Chrome browser, and totally immerses the user into Facebook. 

I’ve been saying for a while that Facebook is become more and more like Compuserve used to be – a “walled garden” of content and applications, which most users never need to leave.

Rockmelt takes Facebook one leap further into that Compuserve model.

Your contacts who are currently logged into Facebook are listed down one side, and updates (notifications) appear on the opposite side.

There are buttons to Share content, and where the search field appears in most browsers combines Facebook search with search engine results.

You can also update your status quickly, and there are other shortcuts to other Facebook functions.

I’ve been using the browser for one day now, and it is nothing short of really distracting. Sometimes you just want to do some work in a browser (our timesheets and accounting system are all browser based for example), and seeing all this Facebook activity is very distracting.

Then there’s the privacy. Normally, I don’t have a major problem with Facebook or Google’s privacy policy, mainly because I know that it’s a ‘payment’ for using a no-payment service – I give some data, and get some excellent (social) search results in one way or another.

Rockmelt really brings that down to Earth with a bang. When installing the app, it asks the user whether you are OK for Rockmelt to access your Facebook account settings:

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Of course, it needs to access lots of settings as described above, so you get the full list of what the app wants to access, and it is pretty scary. I don’t know the app authors from Adam, so how can I trust them will all these details about me?

This is something which Facebook and other API platforms are going to have to tackle soon, before data starts leaking out to unscrupulous developers, if it hasn’t already.

In summary, I like Rockmelt for being the first social browser. It’s an excellent application for my 14 year old nephew, or my wife who both use Facebook for hours a day for purely social reasons. Anyone who uses a browser for work will find it hugely distracting, especially those users who like browsers such as Chrome for it’s no-frills simplicity and lack of clutter.

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