Mobile startup Skyfire is launching a new platform today called Horizon, which is supposed to offer an integrated experience for consumers to access applications like Facebook, Wikipedia, and Yelp while browsing other websites on their phones.
Skyfire is probably best known for its Flash-supporting mobile browser, but more recently, CEO Jeff Glueck says the company has been focused on creating products for carriers, like its Rocket Optimizer for video and traffic optimization. In this case, Glueck says the company is addressing “a big gap” in the mobile experience. When you’re browsing the Web on your desktop, you can access all kinds of toolbars and extensions, but when you’re on your phone, you’re more-or-less stuck with the website in front of you (though not entirely — for example, Apple has integrated more services into Safari on iOS). So Skyfire has created a toolbar experience that’s optimized for smaller screens, limited battery life, and mobile hardware performance.
Eventually, the company may release this as a downloadable consumer product, but initially, it’s working with carriers and manufacturers to embed this on new phones. In fact, it’s already working with AT&T to roll out the platform on select Android devices. Glueck says this strategy gives the carriers a chance to avoid becoming “dumb pipes.”
“Don’t try to compete with Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and build your own social networks, your own portals, using the old-school command-and-control, 1.0 mentality,” he says. “The time for destination sites has passed.”
Instead, Skyfire’s toolbar allows carriers to claim some “beachfront real estate” in the existing browsing experience. (Usually the toolbar will have the carrier’s branding, while also being described as “powered by Skyfire.”) So for example, a consumer could be watching a movie trailer on their phone, then they use the toolbar to bring up the movie listing on IMDB. Or if you’re reading a post on TechCrunch, you could use the toolbar to see which other TechCrunch articles your friends have been sharing on Facebook and Twitter.
As part of the launch, Skyfire is highlighting partnerships with Blue Kangaroo, Quixey, and Readability. With Blue Kangaroo, users get alerted to deals related to the brands and retailers that they’re visiting. With Quixey, they get recommendations for apps that are contextually relevant to the site that they’re browsing (so if they’re reading a tennis article on a sports news site, they Quixey might recommend tennis-related apps). And with Readability, users can read articles in a more visually pleasing format and bookmark them for later reading.
“This is just the beginning of adding new intelligence to the browsing experience,” Glueck adds.
The company says developers interested in adding their apps to the toolbar should email horizon[at]skyfire.com.