New RockMelt Web Browser - Netscapes' Marc Andreessen Helps Start Another Internet Revolution

Today just might be the start of a new Internet revolution.

At least that's what Marc Andreessen, co-inventor of early web browser Mosaic and co-founder of Netscape, is betting on with today's limited Beta release of RockMelt. RockMelt is a new social media-oriented web browser. Andreessen's venture capital company funded the new startup and he sits on the board.

RockMelt co-inventor Tim Howes says, "At RockMelt we are reinventing the browser for the way people use the Web today. We think this has changed dramatically from the way people used it just a few short years ago. But all the browsers available today, although they've gotten a lot faster, are still just about navigating web pages. We built features into the browser to address people's three top browsing behaviors: interacting with friends, consuming news and information, and searching."

"This is a chance for us to build a browser all over again," Andreessen said. "These are all things we would have done (at Netscape) if we had known how people were going to use the Web."

RockMelt is built around social interaction on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, searching on Google, and monitoring a small number of favorite websites. RockMelt organizes these activities into different areas or panes on the screen and facilitates the interaction between these activities.

You have to have a Facebook account to even log in. Your user profile is stored in the cloud, so all of your settings and bookmarks are stored online and you can access everything from any computer with RockMelt installed.

The user interface is where RockMelt tries to shine. Eric Vishria, RockMelt's other co-inventor, says, "There's a reason we designed the edges; this is a new UI construct. They're thin, but there's a lot of power there, but it doesn't get in your way when you're working. If you look at the product overall, it's a browser that's much more personal than anything else. It's my friends, my sites, my services."

Your Facebook contacts are on the left side. You can see who is online and who is offline. You can quickly start chats, post to their Facebook walls, email them, or share photos or videos. You can also quickly see if your friends have any new messages or posts for you to read.

On RockMelt's right side are your website icons and bookmarks. Facebook and Twitter are featured prominently, and you can add other news or information websites. When you click on website icons you get a popout of the site's most recent articles from their RSS feed or you can open them in a separate window.

RockMelt also provides a Share button to share web pages. Although many sites already have such buttons, this standardizes the interface so users don't have to search for share icons on various sites.

RockMelt is built on the Chromium platform, like Google's Chrome browser, which means it supports Chrome extensions and the latest web standards like HTML5 and CSS3.

Time will tell whether RockMelt really is the start of a new Internet revolution or not, but it's definitely an interesting attempt to update web browsers to fit how users use the Internet today. The real revolution will probably be when they come out with a mobile version.

RockMelt just became available today as a limited Beta release with versions for both PCs and Macs. You can apply for an invitation to try the limited Beta release at: