This past week saw the infectious rise of RockMelt, a new social browser built on Google's open-source Chromium browser platform. It offers all the regular browser functionality of Google Chrome (and its competitors) except with the addition of side panes that instantly connect you to your desired social networks.
The primary caveat is that you are required to have an active Facebook account to even get your foot through the door. To begin using RockMelt, you must login with your Facebook credentials; pictured right are all the fanciful permissions RockMelt insists you 'allow' for its use. An immediate turn-off for me!
But, nevertheless, I conceded being the digital nerd that I am -- under different circumstances though, the result may have not been the same, after all, my Facebook account is very personal to me. Just something to think about, RockMelt.
The heavy reliance on Facebook integration clearly defines (what at least RockMelt perceives to be) the hub of social connectivity on the web today: It's Facebook or bust.
RockMelt is smart to offer quick and easy access to any social network of your choice, including Twitter and WordPress.
I was excited to try RockMelt, having searched extensively for that all-in-one social aggregator. I was always left disappointed, in some instances there weren't enough features or maybe too many or I didn't have enough control. And yet, when my Twitter stream lit up with innumerable mentions of RockMelt, a pang of hope resonated inside of me.
In these first few days of use, disappointment has seemed inevitable. Built on Chromium, RockMelt lacks a unique and consistent design for its UI, it feels more like pieces of a puzzle forced together as opposed to ones that naturally fit. The side panes offer extensive possibility, but with the whole left pane dedicated solely to Facebook, I was left feeling cramped.
There is something also unbelievably unintuitive about the whole thing that I just can't seem to get over. To post a new tweet or status or the like, I have to use the left pane where my Facebook profile lives, input the content and select the relevant network. However, updates to my Twitter stream (and other networks) are viewed on the right. Why isn't it all in one place? Why can't I view and update Twitter in the same pane? Yikes.
I can't help but think that much of the marketing and buzz propelling RockMelt into the media forefront is predominantly two-fold. One, that it is much of a novelty product with little competition (despite a lacklustre predecessor in Flock). And two, that it is mysterious. Just ask Sally Hogshead, and she'll tell you mystery falls under "mystique" -- one of her seven triggers of fascination.
And so the public is fascinated, but admittedly not impressed.
I contend that any individual social network does a much better job presenting to and handling its audience, from Facebook's standalone experience to Twitter's new two-column interface and its bevy of amazing third-party managers (including Hootsuite and Seesmic).
RockMelt is a step in the right direction for the digital landscape, especially when it comes to "social aggregation" and target marketing. But it doesn't feel right yet, call it intuition or foolishness but I imagine something is on the brink of exploding, and RockMelt just might be the stepping stone to achieve that.