Less than a month after RockMelt threw open its doors to anybody from the public interested in its Chromium-based browser beta, RockMelt is set to break ground on its second beta today as it hopes to continue attracting new users and developing features.
RockMelt beta 2 (download for Windows | Mac) comes with four noteworthy improvements: a new method for integrated bookmarking that will be strikingly familiar to Instapaper and Read It Later fans; a revamped Twitter interface; a new chat notification bar and better support for multiple, simultaneous instant messages; and upgrading the browser's core to Chromium 10.
The new bookmarking feature, called View Later, lives in your location bar as an analog clock icon, next to the traditional bookmark star icon. Click it to save the URL to read later, and then click on the View Later icon in your App Edge (the sidebar on the right) to access your View Later list.
Now, that's a nifty feature to have baked into the browser, but it's not unique. What's great about View Later is that RockMelt has extended it to all interactions with the browser. The View Later icon appears next to Facebook updates, tweets, and RSS items, too. All View Later items are synchronized along with your other RockMelt data, so you can easily mark something to read later at work and then check it at home.
RockMelt's Twitter integration now includes Twitter search, makes "@" mentions more accessible and allows you to click on them to see a tweeter's full stream, and makes Twitter lists more discoverable. In a phone conversation yesterday, RockMelt CEO Eric Vishra explained that the redesigned Twitter app in RockMelt coincidentally lined up with Twitter's own push to rein in some third-party apps. "We're just coincidentally moving in the same direction [as Twitter]. Users wanted these changes."
Vishra also said that RockMelt users are frequent Facebook instant-messagers, with most people using RockMelt for around six hours per day and running at least three chats at the same time during some point of their day. To that end, RockMelt has improved its chat integration so that instant messages now appear at the bottom of the browser window. The look of this is similar to how instant messages appear in Facebook itself, reinforcing the familiar interface.
RockMelt now has its Facebook Edge on the left, its App Edge on the right, and chats appearing at the bottom of the browser like a function-specific status bar. At a time when browsers are heavily pushing a minimalist interface, it's interesting to see a company build out the interface again.
Another point of comparison with the competition is user base. RockMelt got a lot of attention when it made its debut in November, but the company has not sought a rapid expansion of its user base. Vishra refused to elaborate on how many users the browser had, simple reiterating the "hundreds of thousands" number he stated at the beginning of March 2011. He said that instead of attracting installs, he wants to build a dedicated base. "Anybody can build a vacuous bubble pretty easily. We're looking to build something that people really use," he said.
Going forward, Vishra said that RockMelt aims to focus on more full-featured app integration. How this affects Chromium's ability to run smoothly has yet to be seen. In CNET's recent benchmark analysis of Chrome 10, it fared poorly in memory usage when compared against Firefox 4 and Internet Explorer 9.