Yahoo buys failed browser maker Rockmelt

When Rockmelt launched in 2010, analysts said it was a long shot; they were right

Yahoo today acquired Rockmelt, a company that tried to compete with Google, Microsoft and Mozilla in the cut-throat browser market, but failed.

According to the Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD blog, Yahoo paid between $60 million and $70 million for the Mountain View, Calif. company.

Both Yahoo and Rockmelt posted messages announcing the acquisition on their websites.

"The parallels between Yahoo! and Rockmelt are obvious: we share a common goal to help people discover the best personalized content from around the Web," said Mike Kerns, head of social and personalization at Yahoo, and Adam Cahan, who leads the company's mobile and emerging products group, in a joint blog post. "We can't wait to integrate the Rockmelt technology into our platform as we work to deliver the best experiences to our users in new and exciting ways."

Rockmelt, which launched its browser as a beta in late 2010, never gained traction among users, who stuck with the bigger players -- Google's Chrome, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox -- rather than take to a new browser tightly integrated with Facebook, Twitter and other social networking services.

Even at its launch nearly three years ago, analysts said that Rockmelt was at best a long shot.

"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," said Al Hilwa of IDC at the time.

Ray Vales of Gartner agreed. "Having social features is not enough, given that general-purpose browsers can be extended in a similar fashion," said Vales in 2010.

The two were prescient, as Rockmelt shut down its browser in April, two years after another social networking-oriented competitor, Flock, went dark. Flock was purchased by game company Zynga in January 2011.

Three months ago, Rockmelt switched from browser development to work on a Web- and mobile app-based model to deliver Internet content, somewhat like the better-known Flipboard.

The Web property and apps will be switched off Aug. 31, Rockmelt said today. Between now and then, users can export their bookmarks and RSS feeds to an OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) file, the most common way of importing data into RSS readers and services like Feedly.

Yahoo's acquisition, said Kara Swisher of AllThingsD, gives the Internet giant the Rockmelt team, some of whose members have already been assigned titles at Yahoo.

Rockmelt's founders, Tim Howes and Eric Vishria, will run Yahoo's mobile engineering and its media products group, respectively, Swisher reported. Howes was at Netscape in the late 1990s, and co-invented LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol), an Internet standard for accessing directory servers. Vishria had been with Howes for several years at OpsWare, which Howes co-founded along with Marc Andreessen, who created Mosaic, the world's first widely-used Web browser and the direct ancestor of Netscape.

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