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Andreessen-backed "RockMelt" Browser Hits the Web

RockMelt, the new socially-focused web browser backed by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, was released (by beta invite request only) Monday. The browser aims to transform web browsing into a true social experience by closely integrating with Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

The browser has been in development for two years, and uses the Chromium engine pioneered by Google’s Chrome browser. RockMelt founders Eric Vishria and Tim Howes recently sat down with PCMag.com to talk about their new toy and how it stands out from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Flock, and all the rest of them.

“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, consume news and information, and searching,” said Howes.

With all the competition, RockMelt faces an uphill battle. Even the critically-acclaimed Flock social browser, which aims for basically the same target, has yet to capture a mainstream audience. But RockMelt has a couple of aces up its sleeve.

Support for Facebook and Twitter are built-in. Upon launch, users are prompted to log in with their Facebook credentials, which brings in all their friends. People are listed in a thin bar on the left, and favorite sites on the right. Users are notified of status updates and new content from those sources by little icons, sort of like mini mobile apps.

Contacts and settings are stored on RockMelt’s servers, which means that users can take all their info with them and log in to any RockMelt browser on any computer.

Even with some handy features, success is a tall order when your competitors include Google, Microsoft, and Apple. RockMelt has about $10 million worth of support from Andreessen and other investors, and Howes was one of the top engineer/executives at Netscape. But will it be enough?

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