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RockMelt, the Facebook-Fed Browser, Hits the Web

A new (and bizarrely named) browser called 'RockMelt' was finally released yesterday, after over a year's worth of rumor and speculation. Created by Eric Vishria and Tim Howes (and backed by Netscape developer Marc Andreessen), RockMelt had been widely heralded as a "Facebook browser" -- and, in many ways, it is.

To access the tool, users must first log into their Facebook accounts through the RockMelt homepage. Once opened, RockMelt will automatically generate a list of your favorite Facebook friends on the left sidebar, allowing you to chat with those who are online. The browser has also integrated Twitter into its interface, enabling users to post new tweets, videos and photos by simply clicking their profile picture in the top left hand corner. Sharing pages requires a mere click on the giant 'Share' button at the top of the page, saving users from the hassle of searching every single page for the Twitter/Facebook share mechanism.

As Wired points out, though, RockMelt isn't just a browser with Facebook window dressing. Users can add their own favorite news sites to the right sidebar, just underneath the Facebook and Twitter icons. Clicking on one of your bookmarked icons will automatically bring up a list of that site's most recent articles, culled from its RSS feed. When users enter a query into the browser's search box, they'll also get a floating window of the top ten results, with a real-time snapshot of each page.

"If you look at the product overall, it's a browser that's much more personal than anything else," Vishria told PC World. "It's my friends, my sites, my services. The cloud service enables the push notifications, and allows me to log in from any Mac or PC RockMelt instance and get exactly my experience." Any intrinsically social browser, though, could easily give rise to concerns over privacy, right? "We're not storing personal information about users and what they do," the founders insisted. "We anonymize info about what users are doing for the sole purpose of making RockMelt better. We never record info about users, what they're doing online, searches they're doing, anything like that."

RockMelt, of course, isn't the first browser to build social networking directly into its platform. Both Flock and Mozilla's Ubiquity offer similarly social browsing experiences, and many add-ons can bring essentially the same features to any other browser. The difference, however, is that RockMelt seems to combine all of these features in one, streamlined display. To try it out, you can sign up here -- but RockMelt is still in limited release, so as not to overwhelm the app's cloud-based infrastructure. As soon as it gathers enough juice to handle extra users, though, the company will begin handing out downloads on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tags: browser, facebook, Flock, netscape, rockmelt, search, SocialNetworking, top, twitter, ubiquity, web