The Hippo


Mar 24, 2019








Mock Flock Rock Smock
I’m not addicted, I’m just a social browser

By John Andrews

Just when you thought it was safe to not be checking in on Facebook and Twitter all the time, along comes a browser specifically made to always keep them in front of you.

RockMelt looks a lot like Google’s Chrome browser, and that’s because it’s based on the same Chromium core. And though it’s the new kid, it’s not the first socially centered browser. Flock is the three-year-old veteran in this space, and while it used to be a modified Firefox, it too now builds on Chromium.

RockMelt requires that you sign into your Facebook account just to download the installer. Flock suggests you create a separate Flock account, but doesn’t mandate it. Both installers download the latest version and import favorites from other browsers.

The post-download pages really don’t inspire much charity in me. As you download the RockMelt installer, a page loads showing all 27 members of what I can only assume is the browser’s development team. Twenty-seven people worked for two years on this thing, which is really just Chrome with some added features. They’d better be some wicked awesome features, folks.

Meanwhile, Flock’s page has helpful installation instructions, but is titled, “Thank You For Download Flock.” Oy. I don’t expect perfect grammar on the Internet, but guys, seriously.

So instead of using my trusty Firefox, I spend the day browsing in Flock and RockMelt, and WOW. What hits me the most is not the social networking features of either browser, but the sheer amount of obtrusive advertising on the Web. Javascript popups, Flash animations right in the middle of content, extra crawl graphics at the foot of the browser window ... people put up with this? The AdBlock Plus add-on for Firefox has really been saving my eyeballs and bandwidth. Thank you AdBlock Plus. If ads were as efficient and streamlined as the actual content I was looking at, I wouldn’t even need you, but I do need you. Badly.
Anyhow. A quick trip over to to install the AdBlock extension on my new (Chromium-based) browsers and all was once again well. Then there were only the actual features of the browsers to distract me.

The left and right margins of RockMelt are called the Edges. On the left are all your Facebook friends in alphabetical order and on the right are Twitter and Facebook icons telling you how many updates have been posted since you last looked. Not since you last visited those sites, mind you, but since you last checked through RockMelt. You can also add RSS feeds from any site that offers one.

Flock’s Sidebar actually shows the updates as they happen. Rather than needing to click on an icon to see the latest, it’s right there for you, essentially an RSS reader on the side of the browser. Adding a custom feed takes a little more work than with RockMelt, but you also get more control. By organizing different feeds into different groups, you can select only some of them to see together in the same stream.

One very nice feature of both browsers is that they synchronize on your various computers. The AdBlock plugin that I installed on RockMelt on one PC was automatically installed when I downloaded and signed in to RockMelt on a laptop. Add a bookmark to Flock at home and it’ll be there at work.

There are surely advantages to having social networking built into one’s browser, but is it anything that couldn’t be accomplished with a plugin or standalone application? E-mail me your favorite socially-aware app. We’ll be friends.

®2019 Hippo Press. site by wedu