Friends Edge: Track your Facebook Friends
When you launch RockMelt, you're prompted to log in to your Facebook account. Upon doing so, the Friends Edge is populated with images of your Facebook contacts. You can choose to see all friends who are logged in to Facebook, or you can have it list your select favorites. Each friend image includes a small circle to indicate whether the contact is active on Facebook, idle, or not logged in (or hidden). A button at the bottom of the Edge opens a window where you can easily see all of your contacts and search who is online.
Hovering over an image lets you read the contact's current Facebook status. Click a friend's image to initiate a chat, send a private Facebook message, or post to the contact's Facebook wall, just as if you were viewing within the social networking site. If you so choose, you can also detach the contact window, which can then be expanded or minimized, for quick access. Effectively, you could have various panes for interacting with multiple contacts at once.
The developers of RockMelt have done a pretty good job in integrating Facebook's lackluster chat features into the browser. For starters, it's prettier. Your side of the conversation appears on the left-hand side of the chat box, with a pale green background. Your contact's responses appear on the right with a pale blue background. This makes it a bit easier to track the flow of the conversation. Additionally, unlike in Facebook where chats are locked to the bottom of the screen, RockMelt lets you detach a chat window -- or windows -- and drag them wherever you'd like.
One other interesting difference: If you send a link to an image via chat, the image will render in the chat window. With Facebook chat, the recipient would have to click the link to view the image in a new tab or browser window. Fundamental limitations of Facebook chat are shared by RockMelt, of course. For instance, you can't transfer a desktop document to a contact by dropping it into the chat window, as you can with more advanced IM tools.
RockMelt, at least when I tested it out, did not support any kind of group chat. You can converse with only one contact in one window at a time. By contrast, Facebook introduced a feature that lets you communicate with all online members of a given Facebook group at once. I'd imagine the RockMelt developers can and will fold that into the browser; they certainly should.
The Friends Edge's tricks don't end there; it also enables quick sharing with contacts. For example, if you find an article or image that you want to share with a friend, you simply click the URL or image and drag it over to a friend's image. You'll be prompted to choose how you want to share: via Facebook message, chat, or on the friend's wall.