Skyfire benefited from Apple’s Adobe (s adbe) Flash ban by releasing a cloud-based mobile browser that delivers Flash video to the iPhone (s aapl). Now, the company is trying to leverage interest in social browsers like RockMelt by releasing Skyfire 3.0 with Facebook Connect, making it, Skyfire claims, the most social mobile browser on the market.
Skyfire 3.0, which is available on Android, takes some of the sharing features found in previous Skyfire versions and supplements it with the ability to see shared and liked articles on different websites. By integrating Facebook Connect into the Skyfire’s Skybar menu, users can access their Facebook profile, news feed and Places feature with one click and see the most popular shared items on Facebook, with items recommended items from friends at the top of the list. With a new Fireplace Feed Reader, a user can review a stream of browsable web pages, images, and videos shared by friends. There’s also the ability to like any page on the Web.
Integrating social features into the browser makes a lot of sense. RockMelt grabbed headlines with its desktop social browser, while Firefox also recently implemented a new F1 browser extension that allows users to share content from within the browser. Some are speculating that Facebook is working on a browser. But as people increasingly go mobile, it’s important to have a solution fit for smartphones, perhaps more so than on the desktop. I consume a lot of shared content from my handset and broadcast a lot of stuff as well. When you’re on the go, you have even less time to serendipitously discover things. The need for recommended links and shared content goes up.
And with social networking already one of the top smartphone activities and expected to top voice and SMS as a communications mechanism by 2015 , it makes sense to build that functionality into the mobile browser. Or, if you believe the lingering rumors about a Facebook phone, you build it right into the phone. In some ways, the Skyfire implementation of Facebook Connect shows you a glimpse of what a Facebook phone could look like. It doesn’t have the benefit of tying into a user’s contacts or photo gallery. But it brings social right into the browsing experience and shows how a user’s social graph can enhance web surfing. I expect this will be the norm for modern browsers going forward.
Skype CEO Jeff Glueck said Twitter will also get deep integration soon, allowing people to get one-click access to shared content on Twitter. And Skyfire is also working on a 3.0 version for Apple’s iOS. Glueck said Skyfire’s ability to serve up Flash video means users who follow their friend’s recommended links can see them all inside the browser. He said the Android version of the browser has been downloaded almost 2 million times since last year and the iPhone version, which overwhelmed its servers at launch earlier this month, is up to 600,000 downloads. Glueck said the traffic surge from the iPhone launch was remedied within 48 hours when Skyfire doubled its capacity. With features like Facebook Connect, Skyfire might need to consider adding more servers soon.
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