Rumors surfaced yesterday of a new “Facebook browser” called RockMelt, with a star-studded cast of backers and employees that includes Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt of Firefox fame.
There are no clear reports yet of what the Facebook browser would be like, but it’s unlikely to be a simple Facebook client and I doubt that such smart people would simply copy an existing “social” Web browsers such as Flock.
What RockMelt may be is a fully realized version of Facebook Connect. The basic idea of this service is to let developers integrate enable their users to interact with Facebook friends on their site, without having to create new accounts. It provides readymade social features for any site, without giving users the burden of having to rebuild their own network from scratch.
I interviewed Facebook senior platform manager Dave Morin around the time Facebook Connect was released, and I remember how far-reaching the vision for that service seemed to be. Morin imagined a type of dynamic connection between friends extending across the Web.
Right now, however, Facebook Connect can only be used when a developer integrates it. RockMelt might make it possible to access the service anywhere, creating a constant social connection while browsing. RockMelt could also be built so that users can interact with friends who are logged into Facebook.com, gradually drawing them off the site and onto the Web.
If it’s true that current Facebook staff are also working on RockMelt (as was reported), it’s even more likely that RockMelt will be an extension of the company’s radical vision of a more social Web.