The second public beta of RockMelt — a web browser with built-in social features – has been released, with a raft of improvements, including better chat and Twitter apps. Perhaps the most interesting development, however, is the new Instapaper-like “View Later” stream, which allows users to easily save web pages for later viewing and is envisioned as an alternative to traditional browser bookmarks. RockMelt Founder Eric Vishria explains that as browser history searching through the address bar has become more powerful, traditional bookmark tools have become redundant, and the company wanted to develop an alternative bookmarking tool more in tune with the ways that people use the web today.
The new View Later functionality is baked into the browser UI. As you can see in the screenshot above, the “View Later” button — a clock icon — sits next to the familiar bookmarking star in the address bar. Clicking that button adds the current page to the user’s View Later list, which can be accessed from the right-hand strip on the browser. The items are displayed as a searchable chronological list; each item is displayed with an excerpt and thumbnail image for easier scanning. From the demo I’ve seen, it’s a very slick implementation:
Unfortunately, the View Later tool currently doesn’t sync with other popular “read later” tools like Instapaper or Read It Later, nor does it have mobile access, which may limit its usefulness. One of the reasons I like Instapaper is its ability to save articles while browsing on my Mac to catch up with later on my iPhone. However, as the data is stored in your Facebook account, View Later will sync between RockMelt installations on different machines, and Vishria says mobile access could come in a future version.
The browser also gets a redesigned Twitter app. It now makes use of Twitter’s Real-Time API for near-instantaneous updates, and also has a redesigned UI which makes it much easier to access @ mentions and direct messages (DMs) via new tabs. The new interface looks very reminiscent of Tweetie/Twitter for Mac; Vishria describes the changes to the UI as making the app “more Twitter-y”
RockMelt’s integrated Facebook chat has also been improved, with a new unobtrusive chat bar along the bottom of the browser window, which allows users to hold multiple chat conversations simultaneously. Chat windows can be “torn off” from the chat bar and placed onto the desktop, making the browser into a much more capable chat client.
The browser has been updated under the hood, too: It’s now based on the same version of Chromium as Chrome 10, which should make for a snappier experience.
The new beta will start to roll out to users April 1.