The name Marc Andreessen may or may not ring a bell with you, but those who lived to see the Internet take root, get dismissed as a fad, then take hold knows that without Marc Andreessen, there is a good chance the Internet would have remained the purview of academics.
While the Internet was still a character based boring venue for academics to publish and exchange science papers, Marc Andreessen wrote the Netscape Navigator browser to make the Internet more accessible and user-friendly (“the web is for everyone”). The rest is history.
Well, a company that Marc Andreessen’s venture capital firm supports wants to revolutionize the way we access and view information on the Internet once again. RockMelt is the handiwork of Tim Howes and Eric Vishria, who formerly worked with Andreessen. Andreessen sits on RockMelt’s board of directors.
RockMelt brings together Facebook, Twitter, Google, and a handful of your favorite websites. So, you need a Facebook account to start with. This puts it in direct competition with Facebook which wants to be RockMelt. Which means that RockMelt depends on Facebook to succeed, on Twitter to succeed, on… etc.
From the video, it just looks like a software on top of Facebook or your browser (in fact, based on open-source Chromium which is the base source code for Google Chrome) with a column to the right of your favorite social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. and a column to the left of all the friends you absolutely want to keep tab on. So instead of switching from FB to Twitter to whatever, you get a popup window that does the same thing. Whoopee. And clicking on one of your friend gets a popup window of what she or he posted on FB or twitter. Re-Whoopee. Is this what reinventing the browser means?
In fact, the concept is sound, but should be targeted to the mobile devices. No one sits in front of their desktop PC or laptop to keep tab of friends anymore. They do that on their mobile devices. Search for an apartment? On the mobile with GPS location marked on a map. Recommendation of a place to eat in a foreign city? On the mobile with recommendations from friends who have visited the place before. When a friend posts something, it alerts me on my mobile and I can choose to read it now or later, when I can then decide whether to text back or call.
The new [mobile] browser needs to be more push than pull, this being the right time for it. More suggesting to me what to buy, where to eat, how to get there faster than me searching for it and getting 1000s hits back. More restrictions to who see my posts, who gets to text me, whose advice I really trust. Which makes it really difficult for a startup to monetize its success if it is based on selling ads and services to me.