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RockMelt browser slithers onto interwebs

Spills lava for Facebook socialites only

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A beta of a new "social" web browser named RockMelt, which is based on Google’s open source Chromium code, was splashed onto the interwebulator today.

Organs as wide-ranging as The Daily Mail and, er, The Deadbolt, have reported the arrival of what is essentially a test-build of some browser software that plays nice with Web2.0 sites.

But why all the excitement, you may ask? Well, the fact that RockMelt has multi-million dollar financial backing from Netscape founder Marc Andreessen helped get the software off its launch pad.

The browser itself creepily operates like the monkey to Twitter and Facebook’s organ grinder.

“Behind the scenes, RockMelt is always working on your behalf. Do you visit the same site 10 times a day, checking for new posts or updates? Well, RockMelt keeps track of all your favourite sites for you, alerting you when a new story comes out, a friend posts new pictures, or a new video is available,” said the startup in a blog post.

“And when you open a RockMelt feed, the content is already waiting for you. You can Like, comment, reply, retweet, share – all the actions you’ve come to expect from each service you follow.”

RockMelt, which was developed by Tim Howes and Eric Vishria, made a big thing in its post about being the first fully-backed-up-by-the-cloud browser that also offers faster search, by making the process as “simple as leafing through a magazine”.

However, the outfit didn’t comment on security or privacy regarding the browser. So presumably, users of RockMelt haven’t prioritised such concerns about their personal data – yet.

Andreessen for his part, pumped $10m worth of funds into RockMelt via the venture capital company that he co-runs with Ben Horowitz. Additionally, the Netscape man is a member of RockMelt’s board of directors. He also has a seat on Facebook’s board.

And here’s the rub: For all those web surfers not among Mark Zuckerberg’s 500 million-plus online stalkers, the only way to currently access RockMelt is with a Facebook account and on an invite-only basis.

As soon as a user signs up to RockMelt via their Facebook account, the browser begins harvesting the data from the social network. It also farms out data collected by the user from Google and Twitter.

So, in effect the browser sets up camp on a surfer’s most favourite websites – the hook being that the aforementioned websites are extremely popular online estates. ®

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