A First Look at RockMelt

In a day and age where people are spending a majority of their time online RockMelton social networking sites, it was only a matter of time before a browser came along that was built around social networking. RockMelt does just that.

Facts first. RockMelt requires you to have a Facebook account. You need to log into your Facebook account before you can do anything. Once inside, the browser is broadly divided into three areas for the three main jump off points for browsing. The left side of the browser is for interactions with your social graph. The sidebar holds the list of your Facebook friends and you can post to their walls or initiate chat sessions with them. The middle area is for Search initiated browsing, complete with a Google Search box. The right side bar holds the list of your subscription feeds, including your twitter feed. Selecting any single feed brings up the list of stories with a brief preview.

There are several things that RockMelt has gotten right. Firstly, they have leveraged the Chromium project. Not only has Google done a great job of building a solid browser in Chrome, but RockMelt can completely leverage Chrome’s rapidly growing user base.

Secondly, RockMelt has stolen a huge stride over social networking clients such as Seesmic and TweetDeck. While these tools are sophisticated in working with Twitter and Facebook, they still force users to switch back and forth between their social interactions and their browsing. RockMelt truly recognizes the narrowing of the separation between the two.

RockMelt also does a great job with the onscreen real estate. Widescreen monitors are fast becoming the order of the day. There is really no reason to hang all features off the central area like browser plugins have done for ages. By making use of sidebars and also clearly associating different functionality to different areas of the screen, RockMelt vastly simplifies browsing.

There are however a few things that RockMelt needs to watch out for. The basic concept of incorporating social networking aspects within a browser is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Considering the number of browsers fighting for attention, it is only a matter of time before one of the major browsers come up with a matching feature. In fact, Mozilla Labs has released a Firefox extension that enables in-browser link sharing across social networks.

Google and Facebook’s increasing hold over our online lives have led to many privacy concerns recently. RockMelt will be in a unique position to gather data from users’ Facebook and Google usage. RockMelt claims that it will not gather such data, but it will perhaps be a question that they would have to answer more than once. At least until they become as big as Google or Facebook.

F1 by Mozilla Labs Makes Social Sharing a Breeze

Mozilla Labs has released a new Firefox extension that makes sharing links an easy, fun experience. Named F1, the extension currently connects to Twitter, Facebook and Gmail. Connecting to the services is straightforward and is done within seconds. Once connected, users can share links from any webpage, without having to interrupt their browsing experience.  

The extension also takes care of URL shortening, in the case of posting to twitter (bit.ly being the URL shortner used), and including a screenshot and description, in the case of posting to Facebook.

The following video provides a demo.

Mozilla Labs F1 from Mozilla Messaging on Vimeo.

Web Designers Vs Web Developers

The guys over at Six Revisions have come up with an awesome graphic that captures the differences between Web Designers and Web Developers, down to their stubble beard. It may not help prove who’s better, but at least it will help an outsider not commit sacrilege by referring to a Web Designer as a Web Developer and vice versa.

Web Designers vs Web Developers

New Facebook Groups : The Good, The Bad and The Plain Annoying

Facebook GroupsFacebook announced the revamped version of its Groups feature last week, and much has been said and written about it since then. It is indeed a great feature and Facebook has got a number of things right:

Groups are Closed by Default

The default setting for a group is to be closed, i.e. accessible only to the members of the group. The only way someone can join a group is if an existing member adds them. Thus, when you post to a group, you can be certain that only members within the group see it. Other group settings are “Open” and “Secret”

Members can Opt Out

A member can choose to leave a group at any time. The opt-out option makes it as easy as clicking a button to do so. This puts the control right back into hands of the member.

Group Wall

Naturally, there is a group wall that any member within the group can post to. This keeps the conversation going without having to resort to email exchanges.
If those are the good things about Groups, there are a few not so good ones:

You Don’t Have Control Over Joining a Group

A friend can add you to a group without your knowledge. Like in the Places feature, this is perhaps the most unexpected thing that can happen with the Groups feature. Fortunately, this is where the opt-out function described above comes in handy. But, until you realize and opt-out, you will have to put up with the spam from the group.

Notifications Turned On by Default

And the most annoying thing with the Groups feature has be the fact that by default Facebook sends out email notifications everytime someone posts to the group. Between getting added to a group without notice and the default notification setting, you could very well wake up to an overflowing inbox.

Never Miss an Important Email Again with GMail Priority Inbox

Close on the heels of the Multiple Account Sign-In feature that it released recently, Gmail has announced yet another great piece of functionality. An overflowing inbox is perhaps an everyday reality for many email users. However, things can quickly get out of hand if the really important emails tend to get lost among the constant flood of incoming messages. The capability to “star” a message, which has been available since the early days of gmail, only comes in handy once you have seen or skimmed the message once. But, what if you never notice the message coming in? To handle such scary what-ifs, gmail has introduced the “Priority Inbox”, a feature that ensures that your most important emails bubble up to the top of the inbox, so that you never loose them among the general milleu of everyday bargains and subscription newsletters.

Gmail will look at a variety of factors to determine which messages are important. These factors include looking at who you email the most , or whose emails you read or reply to regularly. You are also provided with controls to increase or decrease the importance of a conversation or a category of conversations. If this sounds a bit like the spam filter, it is because this is indeed a very similar technology, only applied in exactly the opposite way. A step that nevertheless took google several years to perfect.  

Priority Inbox splits your inbox into three sections: “Important and Unread” at the top, followed by “Starred”, followed by “Everything else”.  The idea being that over time you should see all your important messages in the top section. You then “star” selected messages to retain them in the second section for later processing. The bottom section will of course contain everything else including new messages that didn’t make it to the important list.

gmail priority inbox sections

The feature is expected to be rolled out to all gmail users over the next week or so.

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