Modern Software Experience

2010-11-11

RockMelt Logo

new browser

FaceBook Browser

RockMelt is yet another browser, for both Windows and MacOS. It is still in beta, but you can sign up for an invite. RockMelt is interesting for several reasons. One is that Marc Andreessen, the co-author of Mosaic and co-founder of NetScape is financially backing the development of the new browser. The other, more relevant issue is that RockMelt requires a FaceBook account.

You need a FaceBook account to request a beta invite, as you have to log in with your FaceBook account to request an invite. You do not need a FaceBook account to use browser, but you do need one to request an invite and get a download link.

installing

A few days after requesting an invite, you'll receive an email with a download link. You then download the installer as you would for any other application.

RockMelt download

RockMelt download done

I downloaded the installer RockMelt for Windows, or so I thought. I soon noticed that the RockMeltSetup.exe file is such a small download, that it cannot be a installer for RockMelt, a so-called standalone installer, but must be one of those annoying downloading installers. Only the Windows users have to suffer this download app, the Mac users get a 29 MB download, a real installer.

The RockMelt installer gets off on the wrong foot; it start by installing an application that will load automatically with Windows without asking permission to do so. This happened quickly, but I later verified that it is RockMeltUpdate.exe, an automatic updater.
After that, the installer remained Initializing for a minutes. I was about to abort when I noticed that the text finally changed, first to connecting to the Internet and then Downloading RockMelt. The download is done using a BITS job.
The download app downloads the real installer, in my case rm_installer-0.8.34.820.exe, you'll receive a newer version, and then starts it. It, in turn, creates a file called setup.exe and starts that. After about a quarter of an hour, the installer told me that The installer archive is corrupted or invalid. Please download RockMelt again.

RockMelt Corrupted or Invalid

This kind of experience exactly why downloaders are annoying. It may be worth retrying if you have lots of security software popping up warnings about an unknown program trying to do things, like \i do. The second time you run it, you will not have to deal with pop-ups warning you about all it tries to do, and it will not time out because it thinks there is no network just because you did not press the OK button quick enough.

I've tried to install RockMelt several times. The installation remains remarkably slow, with a minutes-long Initializing... message box. In the end, it keeps failing without anything resembling an informative error message.

RockMelt is officially incompatible with Windows XP. In my experience, it is not compatible with Windows Vista either.

incompatible

RockMelt is officially incompatible with Windows XP. In my experience, it is not compatible with Windows Vista either. It does not even install right.

Perhaps the actual problem is that it is not compatible with a securely configured system. They certainly don't treat you and your system with respect, but aggressively goes ahead to install yet another start-up application without asking your permission, informing you that they are about to do it, or informing you that they have done it.

The needlessly convoluted installation procedure is unacceptably aggressive, ridiculously slow, uninformative and in the end a complete failure.
RockMelt try to makes a lot of the fact that Andreessen invested in the company, and that they can consult him. Yet they did not have enough money to hire one developer who understands how to write an installer, and they never thought about asking Andreessen? Here is a free tip for the RockMelt developers: the NetScape installer works fine.

social failure

RockMelt is promoted as browser with social features. Well, we already have Flock, the social browser. We also have lots of plug-ins for Firefox that you can pick and choose from to get exactly the social features you want.
RockMelt hopes you do not know about Flock or plug-ins. They present their browser as if it is an entirely new idea. It isn't. It is a poor clone of Flock.

privacy

I had a brief look through the RockMelt Terms of Service and privacy policy. The terms of service starts with the rather ominous remarks that THIS IS NOT THE USUAL LEGAL MUMBO-JUMBO. READ IT! IT EXPLAINS YOUR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS..
It mentions that agree to automated reporting on both your use of the browser and the system you installed it on. This beta is what is called an instrumented version of RockMelt. That isn't too odd, at least not for a beta, but RockMelt does not show restraint by collecting only what it needs to improve their application.
RockMelt does not just want to know what hardware you have and what menus you use, they also want to know which other browsers you've installed. That is information they simply do not need at all, yet they try to grab it as soon as you install RockMelt.

Apparently, RockMelt does not want to hear about installation failures, because they already know that their installation procedure is completely messed up.

Oh, the license also mentions that RockMelt welcomes and in fact encourages you to provide feedback. They do expect you to use the Send Feedback button on the New Tab page, or the Provide Feedback menu item on the RockMelt menu. So, they welcome feedback after you've managed to installed the software. Apparently, RockMelt does not want to hear about installation failures, because they already know that their installation procedure is completely messed up.

updates

2013-07-11: RockMelt retired

The RockMelt browser was no success. RockMelt changed to a web site and mobile apps, and on 2013 Jul 11, it was announced that the RockMelt browser would retire, and that users would not be able to log in to the browser after 2013 July 31.

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