RockMelt and Facebook - friends with each other, but what about you?

Filed Under: Facebook, Privacy, Social networks

A new browser called RockMelt just launched. It's already generating breathless publicity.

But is it really a new browser? And is it even a novel idea? Or is it just Flock, "the award winning social web browser", in new guise?

Flock is based on Firefox, whilst RockMelt is based on Chromium. That means that neither really counts as a new browser. And I'm not sure that creating a browser build which integrates even more tightly with your social networking life - notably, Twitter and Facebook - really counts as novel, though it does sound like a new way to let you make even more egregious blunders with your Personally Identifiable Information than ever before.

Unlike Chrome Beta releases, or those from Firefox, the RockMelt Beta is quite the opposite of what social networking seems to be all about. It's not open or inclusive at all. You have to ask for an invitation. And guess how you do that?

By installing a Facebook app. This application requires access to your basic information, the right to send you email, and the right to post to your wall.

So far, this is following the same sort of path as many of the Facebook "OMG" and iPad scams we've seen. Want to sign up for X? First go to Facebook and accept application Y. Then you'll get access to X. Except that you never do.

It's surprisingly similar with RockMelt. Once I accepted its Facebook application, I didn't actually get to access RockMelt. I didn't seem to get anything at all, until I went to the privacy page. And there it was. "Thanks, Alice!" (No, I'm not really called Alice. But then RockMelt isn't really a new browser, either.) "We'll email your invite in the next few days." I wonder what I'll be saying on my wall in the meantime?

I must be old-fashioned. Or perhaps I've read too much dystopian science fiction in my life. But with friends like this, who needs enemies?

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5 Responses to RockMelt and Facebook - friends with each other, but what about you?

  1. Gavin Costello · 1446 days ago

    I sense my own personal blogpost on what we give away for not very much - disguised in the sugar coated garments of "ease of use"
    There are plenty of ways of doing what Flock and Rockmelt do without having to compromise your person to do so. People just need to be better educated.
    That's our job

    • Paul Ducklin · 1446 days ago

      You're quite right.

      I feel even more strongly about this "cost of free", having recently written this:

      "You aren't [...] a user or a customer of most 'free' sites. You're really just an informal employee, paid in kind. That's worth remembering."

      I like the metaphor of "sugar-coated garments", though. I'll borrow it, if I may. I'm just picturing the flies you'd attract when you put on your GlucoShirt and your LollyShorts for a stroll to the beach...

  2. Paul · 1446 days ago

    I have to chuckle when they do this... it always makes me say "no, not touching ever".

  3. Guest · 1446 days ago

    Flock is based on Chrome, also.

    • Paul Ducklin · 1446 days ago

      Not according to Flock :-) For example, the blog article about the latest release featured on Flock's main page has a "Powered by MOZILLA" logo in the bottom right corner.

      (Seems that will change, since beta.flock.com proudly says that it's powered by Chromium, but the current versions definitely claim to be Mozillaesque.)

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog