RockMelt Enters Browser Wars with Backing from Marc Andreessen, Focus on Facebook and Twitter
Change in the browser market, compared to newer areas like mobile apps, is truly glacial: the main trend over the past few years has been the gradual migration of Internet Explorer users (the Microsoft browser still has a 60 percent market share) to Mozilla’s Firefox (23 percent) and Google’s Chrome (9 percent). But if anyone can help shake up the browser market, it may be the guy who created it: Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen. His venture firm Andreessen Horowitz is the lead investor in RockMelt, a Mountain View, CA, startup that released its new Mac and Windows Web browser in private beta today.
RockMelt, built using the same open-source Chromium code behind Google’s Chrome, is designed to let heavy users of social media services like Facebook and Twitter interact with their friends and followers from the main browser window, without having to switch tabs or pages or fire up separate client programs or widgets. So the biggest visual difference between RockMelt and other browsers is the presence of two “edges” down the right and left sides of the window—a Favorites Edge showing individual Facebook friends, and an App Edge showing how many new RSS news stories, Facebook news feed updates, or tweets are awaiting viewing. Appropriately enough, you need a Facebook account to use RockMelt, and even to request an invitation to download it.
In a press release, Andreessen described RockMelt as “the freshest, most innovative take on browsing since browsers were created.” Tim Howes and Eric Vishria, who co-founded the company in 2008, have “rethought the browser around the massive shifts in user behavior that will drive the Web over the next decade,” meaning social networking and media sharing, Andreessen said.
Howes, RockMelt’s chairman and chief technology officer, is the former CTO at server management software maker Opsware, where Vishria, now RockMelt’s CEO, was vice president of marketing. Both spent about a year at Hewlett-Packard after the Palo Alto computing giant acquired Opsware in 2007. They’ve built a team of 30 employees at RockMelt; to fund the effort, they’ve raised about $10 million from a group of Silicon Valley luminaries including Andreessen Horowitz, former Intuit CEO Bill Campbell, angel investor Ron Conway, former VMware CEO Diane Greene, and First Round Capital managing partner Josh Kopelman.