March 8, 2011
Facebook: stepping away from itself

I like Facebook, and have no complaint with its imperialism. It has identified and leveraged the most crucial founding fact of the mainstream internet: It’s about people. People connecting to other people. That’s why email was the killer app for years. If Facebook is the killer app of the 2010’s, it deserves its reach and revenue.

But entering into the movie rental business is different. There is nothing about watching a movie through Facebook that furthers a person’s online social life or helps connect with friends. Media delivery, when removed from friend delivery, separates Facebook from its core mission and core value.

The main reason I won’t watch The Dark Knight on Facebook is that I subscribe to Netflix and there’s no reason to pay any other service a per-movie fee. 

I also am uneasy about the requirement to Like the Dark Knight FB page in order to rent the movie. It might seem trivial, but I don’t want my movie rental choices added to my social profile unless I choose to add them. When Facebook requires me to Like one of its page owners, then collects revenue from the relationship, that seems to cross a church-state line.

Most of all, I’m saddened by the start of a new kind of Facebook. I don’t mind if Facebook resembles the internet for many of its users, who are reluctant to leave the walled garden and explore the wider online realm. But if Facebook becomes just another media company pushing into the living room, stabbing at Netflix and Hulu for the sake of domination, forsaking its heritage as a place where friends share their lives … that seems like the start of a disappointing and unfocused downhill slide.

November 9, 2010
Will RockMelt get a second chance to make a first impression?

Did RockMelt release its new socialized browser to a wide audience too soon? Possibly.

Despite an infestation of first-day bugs, does RockMelt shine a light into the future, or mark a milestone toward a browser revolution? Possibly.

Enough equivocations. My own first day with RockMelt was skewered with frustrations and false starts. The “Edges” (left and right persistent sidebars that contain Facebook friends, RSS feeds, and social sharing) didn’t work at all for half the day. Importing bookmarks from Google Chrome half-worked (folder yes; bookmark bar no). Twitter was non-existent, either as a stream or sharing option, until mid-afternoon. I restarted the app multiple times on three different computers, trying for joy. RockMelt’s twitter stream was plush with apologies and reassurances that the team was spraying bugs, scrambling heroically to keep the trains moving during the product’s first rush hour. 

The main RockMelt differentiator is this: instead of browsing to your social circles, you carry your social world with you everywhere. It’s like a stay-at-home mobile environment. If the concept gets any sort of mainstream exposure, the paradigm will appeal to folks who will never install Chrome of Firefox plug-ins that accomplish RockMelt’s basic strategy.

I like it. I like having my browsing universe circumscribed by friends. The sharing is no better than I get from Chromed Bird and other plug-ins, but it feels fresh and convenient. Ask me if I care about privacy hand-wringing that accompanies any server-side storage of personal info. Hell no, I don’t. 

My RockMelt experience survived a bumpy first day, and I’ll be using it tomorrow.

Engadget review

Download Squad review