Rockmelt beta is available to all

The Chromium-based social browser RockMelt has generated plenty of press coverage since rumors of its capabilities first appeared some 18 months ago. It was only available on an invitation-only beta, though, so you may not have had a chance to try out the program for yourself, but that's all changed today with the company's release of the first RockMelt Public beta.

The new build of the browser looks much like previous versions. Essentially it's Chrome with additional panels to display your Facebook stream, Twitter account, Facebook friends and more, so you can keep up-to-date and chat with your contacts without ever having to visit the Facebook site.

The company is also beginning to customize the browser with some useful new apps. A new YouTube app, for instance, opens a panel where you can watch videos, search for new clips without interrupting what's playing, create playlists, see your search history, or easily share videos with your friends.

Of course there are some very capable Chrome extensions that can do most of these things already, so if you're a Chrome fan then you may not see the need for RockMelt's particular version of these ideas. Especially as it doesn't have the most intuitive of interfaces. And your feed updates don't happen in real time. RockMelt says that "heavy server load" means they're only updated "every few minutes" at the moment. The company says updates should be in real time "soon," but meanwhile the browser version of your social feeds could lag noticeably behind the real thing.

Not everyone reports a delay, though, so if you're a Facebook fan then you shouldn't let that put you off from at least trying RockMelt. There's no need to worry about invitations any more, just download and install the latest public beta and you can have it set up with your social networking details in just a few minutes.

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