Rockmelt was built on Google's Chromium browser framework (so the browser looks and acts a lot like Chrome), but it's designed to appeal to social media fanatics. You have to sign in through Facebook to use most of its features.

But fear not - while RockMelt collects data on your browsing habits, developers say they won't share that data with any third parties - including Google and Facebook. And there are benefits to the Facebook sign-in too: RockMelt also uses your Facebook account to automatically sync settings and bookmarks among computers and any devices running the RockMelt iOS app (there's no RockMelt app for Android yet).

What fans love about RockMelt will undoubtedly drive some people crazy. On the right side of the browser window, you'll see a thin strip with your Facebook friends' icons and notifications about whether they're available to chat. By clicking your friend's icon, you can chat in the browser window without having to switch back and forth between Facebook and your other tabs. On the left side of the browser window, you can choose "apps" for different Web sites that show notifications when new content has been posted. Sometimes, though, the information at the edges of the browser window can get distracting. When that happens, you can hide the information by clicking on the bell icon in the top right corner to silence the visual noise.

There are some other drawbacks to RockMelt as well. Any link you click on in the left hand bar (such as a link from RockMelt's CNN app) will be added to your Facebook timeline unless you turn the behaviour off in the browser preferences. Also, many of the extensions that work in Google's Chrome don't work in RockMelt. RockMelt CEO Eric Vishria says the company is continuously working with developers of good Google Chrome apps to make versions of the apps that are compatible in RockMelt as well. He says today there are about 200 extensions for RockMelt.

Overall, the fledgling browser works really quickly. It did an even better job than Chrome at processing HTML5, coming in third after Firefox and Internet Explorer 9, and RockMelt took second in our JavaScript benchmark - scoring slightly lower than the winning Chrome. And it loaded our static, image-heavy page in a lightning-fast 4.15 seconds, second only to Opera. See also Group test: what's the best web browser?

RockMelt: Specs

  • Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows XP
  • Requirements: Facebook account
  • File Size: 5.4 MB
  • Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows XP
  • Requirements: Facebook account
  • File Size: 5.4 MB

OUR VERDICT

A fast browser that is perfect for social media fans, we like RockMelt, but we might not use it at work.

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