Explosion in Web 2.0 Factory Leads to Rockmelt


Tragic news today from the browser mines. An explosion rocked the Chromium operations, resulting in the death of good taste, simplicity, and utility. The resulting slag mixed together social networking, a form of RSS, and browsing into one giant, still smoking blob. Web 2.0 teams were immediately dispatched, but recovery is unlikely. We're going to have to live with Rockmelt.

rockmelt_screen_cap.jpgRockmelt is a social-networking and most-visited site dashboard wrapped around a browser. The notion is that instead of performing separate tasks in separate places, such as different tabs, windows, or programs, we're going to want to see what the hell all our friends are up to constantly, while watching streaming crap flow up both sides of the screen along with updates to Web sites we frequently view. Yeah, that's how I like to roll, yo.

I can see why the idea behind Rockmelt is appealing. It's why Flock was released over five years ago. As the number of social networks to which we belong grows, and the kind of activities we can perform is ever more tightly tied into Web behaviors, there's an obvious conclusion to draw: perhaps all of this could be in one place, making it more efficient and seamless. But that assumes that multitasking isn't a myth, and that people are incessantly in need of communication. I'm probably well outside the target demographic for this kind of software, but the target demographic is already using apps on smartphones, so they're not going to be interested in this browser, anyway. Rockmelt may be too hip for its waistline. Should I point out that Marc Andreessen is an investor?

I haven't used Flock, for the same reason Rockmelt isn't appealing: I actually have work to get done, and I'm not sitting constantly in front of a browser during my soi disant "idle time." (Idle time needs air quotes and double quotes around it, since I have two small children.)

Earlier in the year, I became fascinated with tools like Freedom, software for Mac and Windows that lets you save yourself from yourself. Freedom disables network access for a period of time you set. Other tools remove distractions by clearing the screen of apps except the one you're working on; several word-processing programs give you a blank sheet of paper and wipe the slate clean. The iPad has the same effect writ medium-large: whatever you're doing fills the screen, and it takes a conscious act to shift to another activity; you can't casually swap. (I wrote this up for the Economist in June as "Stay on target," complete with some neat comments from Peter Sagal of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.)

If you don't have a prescription for Adderall already, just show Rockmelt to your physician, and he or she will be happy to oblige. I'll be in my unlit basement, viewing pages with lynx.

NASA image by Robert Simmon, using ALI data from the EO-1 team via Creative Commons.


    1. Hey, I was going to say Pointcast too! But does anyone remember some guy who won a Webby Award sometime in 1999 to 2002 (I think) who came up with a website that would concatenate websites on top of each other in one browser window to make life easier? What a load.

      Also, I liked this idea better when it was called: MY DESKTOP!

      Epic fail.

  1. yo dawg, i heard you liked to browse shit websites, so i put some shit websites in your browser so you can browse your shit websites while you browse your shit websites.

  2. I signed up for it, downloaded the app, then found out how much info it wants and uninstalled it. F*** that.

  3. Making the reasonable assumption that there’s no AdBlock for it, I guess that this fine app would serve up n-squared ads at once.

    No thanks.

    1. why is that a reasonable assumption? it’s built on chromium, and works with chrome ad blocking extensions.

  4. I started using RockMelt today and so far I really enjoy it. I’d encourage you to develop your own conclusion of the browser rather than relying on Glenn’s rather biased opinion only. Granted it’s not not a browser for everyone, but if you do spend a fair amount of time on Facebook or other social sites you might enjoy some of the ideas presented. I can see how the browser could evolve into something exciting over time.

    1. Thank you for that high-quality astroturf!

      (Rather biased opinion? I thought I scorched the earth. Was I too restrained?)

  5. I have to say I enjoy this as a social networking tool.

    It may have to do with the fact that as a freelance illustrator and designer there are certain social-networking feeds and news sites that I actually like to keep an eye on during my research and work time. This helps me remember to keep in touch with my followers and clients, and remember to market myself at various sites throughout the day.

    Being quick to reply to client messages (which increasingly show up through facebook, skype, and gmail) helps me keep clients happy, and stay on top of changes.

    Overall, I wish there were options to change which networks were built in. (Why can’t I use Twitter instead of Facebook?) But I really like the idea.

  6. “and remember to market myself”


    Social, meet marketing. Marketing, social. You aren’t related.

    Er, you aren’t, are you? You really shouldn’t be.

  7. Um.. hasn’t marketing always involved social interaction even before the internet? You kinda need to get the word out and be in touch with your audience in order to market a product.

    Also, as a freelance designer, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to market yourself and communicate with potential clients in order to get more work.

  8. It could be a very interesting platform for social media marketers…

    The bane of my existence. Marketers of various stripes are always trying to inject themselves into places I use to keep up on things I’m actually interested in. Don’t need it. If I want your services, I’ll find you, and I’ll be looking for someone that spends their time working, not trying to clutter up my life.

    I also need to keep up with clients and prospects. Things like email, IM and Skype work just fine. If I need to get something important in front of them, I’m certainly not going to hope they notice it on their twitter feed. And if it’s not important, why am I wasting their time on it, and mine?

  9. Earlier in the year, I became fascinated with tools like Freedom, software for Mac and Windows that lets you save yourself from yourself. Freedom disables network access for a period of time you set.

    Another option for Firefox users is LeechBlock. You specify which sites you want to block and when.

    1. Ahh, but LeaachBlock is way too easy to get around. Too easy to disable the extension (even with the password), or, easier, simply fire up a different browser. About as useful for those of us with poor self-control as an alarm clock with a great big sleep button.

      Freedom, or Antisocial (I use the latter), works at a lower level to (1) completely disable all connections to the internet, or specific websites for the latter, so that you can’t even ping them from the command line, and (2) make it impossible to turn off without rebooting the computer (I’m sure I could work out where the config files are stored, if I really wanted to, though).

      Wait, speaking of which, what am I doing on BoingBoing again? Hmmm, the problem is remembering to fire up these applications…

  10. I tried Leechblock, but uninstalled it when I figured out that there was no, “Look, I really do need onto this site” button. Something that would give you a few minutes reprieve would be ideal. The reasons are twofold. First, the demarcation between “sites I need to access for work” and “sites I use to goof off” are not so clean as Leechblock seems to assume. Second, it’s analogous to diet plans: the ones that assume you’re going to cheat and make small allowances for the fact are much easier to stick to.

    Or maybe the Internet really has crippled my attention span more than I care to admit.

    One option is to allow you to turn it off after solving some brief puzzle, or typing in a paragraph of text. I think the task would only need to be onerous enough to make context switching more expensive than “alt-tab”.

  11. Just in:

    “Authorities declare BoingBoing has discredited it’s Brand with product placement article”

    Taylor Wright, chimes in with Mechanical Turk comment placement!

    “I really enjoy it.” he says.

    Then posts as Anon because the fake reader profile wasn’t working.

    Make me Puke.

    ..Although it did enable the most poignant comment of the year from ‘conflator’:

    “It could be a very interesting platform for social media marketers… ”

    1. I’m sorry Michael, what were you accusing me of? I thought it may be useful to post an opinion divergent from the rest in the fact that I’m actually using the browser and enjoying it, nothing more.

    1. I use lynx for a silly but useful purpose. In a terminal window, I prefer to use lynx for downloads instead of using wget or curl or some such. I’d rather navigate and make sure I’m getting the right thing, or punch in the URL into lynx. It handles it in a clearer way!

      yum install lynx

  12. off topic: I wonder how many people did what i just did?
    I fired up a console and typed in “lynx”
    IT’s there!
    so I tried surfing around the internets for a few minutes, and it worked surprisingly well. This would actually be quite a powerful tool for someone who has the “idle time” to surf the web all day.

  13. If it wasn’t for the fact that I primarily use Facebook as a chatting program (via Pidgin), I’d be a bit more interested in this. (It’d also help the case if I used Twitter or, really, any social media besides Facebook.) Besides, I’m pretty sure Firefox already has extensions for everything this browser does. And if it doesn’t, I give it a few weeks.

    Maybe we can just all agree that at least it’s not Internet Explorer and move on with our lives?

  14. I don’t see what is supposed to be so amazingly innovative if they have to piggyback on someone else’s tech in order to initiate their own thing. Is it Facebook that should be getting the accolades for the results that they are so proud about? What if Facebook wasn’t there doing all of their legwork? what would the experience be with the browser? Why can’t I try Rockmelt before I sign anything else over to yet another info trolling entity.

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