RockMelt Browser for social networks debuts

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Web has changed a lot since Marc Andreessen revolutionized the Internet with the introduction of his Netscape browser in the mid-1990s. That's why he's betting people are ready to try a different Web-surfing technique on a new browser called RockMelt. 618a17fe77f3250378c5306b80fda202

The browser, available for the first time Monday, is built on the premise that most online activity today revolves around socializing on Facebook, searching on Google, tweeting on Twitter and monitoring a handful of favorite websites. It tries to minimize the need to roam from one website to the next by corralling all vital information and favorite services in panes and drop-down windows.

"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."

Andreessen didn't develop the RockMelt browser the way he did Netscape, whose early popularity waned as Microsoft Corp. bundled its Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system.

RockMelt is the handiwork of Tim Howes and Eric Vishria, who formerly worked with Andreessen. But Andreessen's seal of approval has been stamped on startup.

The biggest chunk of RockMelt's $10 million in funding has come from the venture capital firm that Andreessen runs with his partner, Ben Horowitz.

Andreessen also sits on RockMelt's board of directors, and his advice has been called upon frequently.

"When you are trying to reinvent the Web browser, who would you rather run your ideas by besides Marc?" said Howes, RockMelt's chief technology officer (Vishria is CEO).

Facebook's imprint also is all over RockMelt, although the two companies' only business connection so far is Andreessen. He also serves on Facebook's board of directors.

RockMelt only works if you have a Facebook account. That restriction still gives RockMelt plenty of room to grow, given Facebook has more than 500 million users.

After Facebook users log on RockMelt with their Facebook account information, the person's Facebook profile picture is planted in the browser's left hand corner and a list of favorite friends can be displayed in the browser's left hand pane. There's also a built-in tool for posting updates in a pop-up box.

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