Skyfire offers a new way to browse the web from your phone, and it might appeal to you if you don’t have an iPhone.
Essentially, it offers a mobile browser that lets you view the full page of a web site from your phone, then zoom in to see specific parts of a page by pressing the part of the page with a stylus, your finger, or your keypad. Press once and you’ll see a box form around the part of the page that you press, press on that box and you’ll be taken to that part of the page. Once you’re on the part of the page you want, you can click through to links, images or videos.
The experience is relatively similar to viewing the web on your iPhone. As the iPhone is credited with making many people aware that phones can in fact offer quality web-surfing, Skyfire could prove an acceptable substitute to them. In this sense, Skyfire is more a competitor to other mobile browsers, such as Opera Mini.
You can view sites that use Flash, AJAX and other web-native programming languages, with pages loading just as fast as on many PCs — this is in contrast to most browsers. Examples include music site Last.fm and video-sharing site YouTube (Note: YouTube has just come out with a mobile site that also offers fast-loading Flash-based videos on most web browsers).
In order to start using Skyfire, you need to download the company’s mobile web browser application. The site is in private beta, and only available for Windows Mobile now. It will introduce a Symbian version of its application in the coming months. Sign up here.
Of course, if a mobile user is going to go through the trouble of downloading and regularly using a mobile app, it needs to be very compelling — most users don’t bother with downloading mobile apps on their own, normally. Skyfire thinks it is compelling enough to get users through downloads (this may work, as Opera Mini, for example, has been downloaded and is used by millions around the world). Skyfire is also planning on attracting users through encouraging web site publishers to post a “get skyfire” badge on their site to guide their reader to use it for mobile browsing of their sites, similar to the “get firefox” web browser adoption campaign.
The company hopes to make money through search advertising, and search sponsorship, much like how Google pays Firefox owner Mozilla to be the search engine of choice on its browser search bar.
Skyfire has raised $4.8 million from Trinity Ventures and Matrix Partners.