Facebook and RockMelt won't admit that their recent integration agreement is not a prelude to an acquisition, but it's not hard to find the value in such an arrangement if the companies decided to pursue a deal.
Why do this? For RockMelt, it would be a matter of survival. For Facebook, appropriating RockMelt for its 700 million-plus users could provide a super countermeasure to the rise of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome Web browser, which has over 160 million users.
Launched last November with backing from serial entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, RockMelt is a social Web browser. A niche product, it has a few hundred thousands users.
The application frames the browsing experience with people's Facebook contacts along the left edge of the browser window after users log into RockMelt via their Facebook e-mail and password. The right side of RockMelt includes buttons for accessing the Facebook News Feed, Facebook Profile, Twitter tweet stream and timeline.
RockMelt has been steadily improving the browser's speed and feature functionality, culminating in the RockMelt beta 3 launched June 14. The new version lets users manage Facebook friend requests, messages and notifications directly in the browser instead of solely on Facebook.com. When users start a chat on Facebook.com, it will open a RockMelt chat window.
These capabilities are the result of the companies' first formal integration. And it might not be the last. "RockMelt's deep integration with Facebook makes it easier for people to take their friends with them around the Web, creating more personal and meaningful experiences wherever they go," said Ethan Beard, director of platform partnerships for Facebook, about the deal.
RockMelt told eWEEK its hasn't held any acquisition talks with Facebook, but perhaps it should. While the browser has a vibrant community of active users, the market has not proven patient for social browsers.
Indeed, there is an uneasy parallel between Flock, easily the most popular of all the social browsers and RockMelt. Flock based its software on Google's Chrome browser before folding last year. RockMelt is also based on the open source Chromium project behind Chrome.
Ironically, it's Google's popular Chrome browser that Facebook could attack if it chose to buy its new partner.
Facebook and Google are locked in one of those primordial struggles for Web dominance, seeking to lure and attain as many users as possible and make money through online advertising served to those consumers. This is why Google has been struggling to bring more social elements to its Web services.