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 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.
Glenn Fleishman, @glennf, is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, a fortnightly electronic periodical for curious people with a technical bent. Glenn hosts The New Disruptors, a podcast about connecting creators and makers to their audiences, and writes as “G.F.” at the Economist's Babbage blog. He is a regular panel member on the geeky media podcast The Incomparable. In October 2012, Glenn won Jeopardy! twice.