The recent news that social browser RockMelt raised $30 million and that Google Chrome has reached an astonishing 20% marketshare has to make anyone wonder: when is the Facebook browser coming? Why do we know Facebook is building a browser?
Why does it matter?
A browser is important because it’s the gateway to the internet. Google pays the Mozilla Foundation, makers of Firefox, $50 million each year to have Google set up as the default search engine on there.
Your browser determines how the web looks and a lot of what you do on the web. Look at how Apple’s refusal to implement Flash on its mobile browser is killing Adobe.
And RockMelt, which adds your Facebook friends and social services to all the webpages you browse, suggests a way in which Facebook could build social experiences into the web.
Here are other ways in which a Facebook browser could help Facebook:
- Take your identity everywhere. Right now, browsers already pre-populate your login/password screens. Facebook already operates a single sign-on service, Facebook Connect.
- personalise the web. Facebook Connect in the browser could mean the realisation of Instant personalisation, Facebook’s ill-fated project to let any site be personalised with your Facebook credentials.
- Modify ads. And of course, carrying your identity everywhere you go would mean showing you super-relevant Facebook ads wherever you go. (You may find this creepy; the point is that it’s a big opportunity for Facebook.)
- Let you pay for stuff. Right now Facebook Credits, Facebook’s virtual currency, only works on Facebook, and it’s going to remain so for the foreseeable future. But an integration of Credits into your browser could let you pay for stuff online through Facebook credits in one click, which would certainly be appealing to merchants.
- Smoke Google+. Google+’s secret weapon is that its notifications will appear on every Google site. That’s huge, both literally and figuratively. The only way that Facebook can take its notifications on an even broader swathe of the web is to put them right into your browser.
The question about the Facebook browser is not if but when.