RockMelt social browser faces tough sell

The odds are stacked against RockMelt, a new browser designed to serve as a social networking hub, industry analysts said today.

On Monday, Silicon Valley startup RockMelt launched a beta of what it called a "re-imagined" browser that tightly integrates Facebook, other popular social networking services, and a cloud-based service with a traditional Web navigation program.

The move is interesting, said Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC. But RockMelt has a tough row to hoe, he said. "The odds are really stacked against them, because if they do succeed, the big browser makers will just come in and co-opt it by adding features of their own," Hilwa said.

Gartner's Ray Valdes agreed with Hilwa. "Having social features is not enough, given that general-purpose browsers can be extended in a similar fashion," he said, citing the numerous Facebook-centric extensions for Mozilla's Firefox as an example.

Valdes said also that he thought RockMelt was a long shot because it was following in the footsteps of another browser with social networking aspirations.

"Early adopters are the ones who would try out a new browser," Valdes said. "[But] they did that already with Flock, and that browser failed to gain broad traction."