Surfing around the web the other day in Google Chrome, my shiny browser of choice (if you work with copy from all over the globe, Google Translate is in-window with no need for extensions or plugins and is priceless), I stumbled onto a browser that I’d heard of only vaguely: RockMelt. Imagine a browser as visually appealing and capable as Chrome or Firefox, but with every single social networking application integrated into the browser from the get-go. No plug-ins, no add-ons, and it’s as much a part of the software as the minimise button.
By taking social media and placing it unavoidably in your online path, it’s going to make you browse differently, and, if you’re big on Twitter or Facebook, more efficiently, if anything. No more flicking between tabs or add-ons, just pure and simple social networking from within the tab you’re on. It’s not an aggressive tactic as you’re never forced to use these features, but I’d be lying if I said their demonstration video didn’t make it all sound so tempting (especially the glockenspiel and mouth organ soundtrack – Ed.)
Niche software has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the major plus-points is that, from the perspective of the (in all likelihood) small business responsible for the software’s design, you’re targeting a more focused area of your potential market. This can lead to dedicated users who’ll return often, and even better, a loyal community who through small bits of open-source coding can contribute in their own way and it won’t cost you a penny. However, it also means you’re not going to be able to expand in the way you might want to, and that means sacrificing the niche features of the software just to bring in bigger numbers.
Social media users, or people using other software for specific tasks (such as Yahoo!’s social media integration into their email system) are going to benefit because they’ll be able to focus. For people promoting products and services via Twitter and Facebook, that’s a god-send. However, when you’re tired of the social looking-glass, it might be harder to walk away. Merging browsing, Twitter, Facebook and even instant messaging into a single program is great for a neater task-bar, but what about resource consumption, or the risk of the program crashing? Being able to chop, change and trouble-shoot singular aspects of your online software suite is key to not becoming over-dependent on the one program. That and I can’t see any old-school CEOs turning into IM addicts any time soon.
Essentially, RockMelt’s doing what a lot of people want to be done – better communication, social or otherwise, and connecting the world more efficiently than before, albeit at the risk of damaging the more formal, traditional means of communicating via the web. People can now have a more community-based browsing experience, even if they’re using their Yahoo! email account, and it fosters a friendlier, more social online environment. Apart from the inevitable wave of link-spam by new, over-excited RockMelt users, but they’ll calm down soon enough, I hope.
RockMelt and similar niche social media products and services are furthering the place of niche software in our society. If everyone’s got an App for what they need, every business has a market, albeit a small one. To become a more social online community and go beyond the 4chan-esque forum flame wars and endless comment trolling is something to be cherished and aimed for. The friendliness and interactivity of the web isn’t just limited by our attitude, but also the software and services we use. Continuing to further social media can only benefit a hostile, immature internet by fostering a more familial approach to online social communication. RockMelt’s is definitely the start of something new. You’ve nothing to lose by being part of it.