Skyfire (web browser)

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Skyfire Logo.png
Developer(s) Skyfire Labs, Inc.
Stable release 4.1.0 (Android), June 30, 2011; 3 years ago (2011-06-30)
4.0.7 (iOS (iPhone/iPod)), July 12, 2012; 2 years ago (2012-07-12)
4.1.2 (iOS (iPad)), June 12, 2012; 2 years ago (2012-06-12)
Development status Active
Operating system Android 2.0, 2.1, 2.2
iOS 3.1.3, 4.x, 5.x
Available in English
Type Mobile browser
License Proprietary

Skyfire Web Browser is a mobile web browser which is said to render requested web page on a proprietary server and relays it to the browser on the end user's mobile phone which displays the content. Skyfire currently runs on iOS.[1] As of 31 December 2010, it no longer supports Symbian OS or Windows Mobile.[2] Skyfire comprises two distinct generations of mobile browser technology. In Skyfire's first generation (1.x) browser, a web page is fully rendered by a server separate from the mobile device, similar to the operation of a thin client.[3] This approach is also used by Opera Mini. Skyfire's second generation (2.x) browser employs a hybrid approach, using a conventional rendering of Web pages on the handheld device, but streaming video from Skyfire's servers.[4] Skyfire Web Browser is one of three main products for telecommunications offered by the company Skyfire.

Skyfire Company[edit]

Main article: Skyfire (company)

Skyfire is a cloud solutions for mobility company founded in 2007, acquired by Opera Software in 2013. They offer network optimization technologies including mobile video optimization and monetization tools for carriers. Skyfire maintains their Skyfire Web Browser, one of the top web browsers for the Apple iOS (for both the iPhone and iPad) platforms, as a showcase and laboratory for its technology. Skyfire was recognized as no. 4 on Light Reading’s 2011 Startups to Watch list and a winner of the 2012 Red Herring Awards award in recognition of the leading private companies from Americas. Skyfire is funded by Lightspeed Venture Partners, Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures, and Verizon Ventures.


Skyfire is a web browser which operates by rendering requested web page on a proprietary server.

Rendered output is relayed to the browser (running on the end user's mobile phone), which displays the content.

Skyfire 1.x[edit]

In Skyfire's first-generation browser, all content is rendered at Skyfire's servers using the Gecko rendering engine[5] before sending the rendered output to the browser. The output is sent as images annotated with interactive items such as links and text-fields.

Consequently, the browser is able to use features from a full desktop web browser without the need to have a powerful mobile device. Features such as Adobe Flash, Silverlight, and QuickTime are usable without additional plug-ins on the device, and can be easily updated server-side without the need to update millions of individual client installations.[6]

Downsides include that the user experience can be adversely affected by the abilities of the Skyfire server. For example, a user with an excellent 3.5G or Wi-Fi connection may still experience slow page loading and unwatchable video. Until December 2009, Skyfire's servers demonstrated few symptoms of limits. Since then, the browser's performance has degraded significantly for users of Skyfire 1.5.[7][8][9]

Skyfire 2.x[edit]

Skyfire's second generation browser uses the same three-tiered technology, but only for content that cannot be effectively processed at the handheld. Web page text and images, for example, are rendered on the phone. Flash video, on the other hand, is rendered at Skyfire's servers, re-encoded to a device-compatible video format, then relayed to the phone.

Flash video is currently supported with plans to add support for Windows Media, Silverlight, QuickTime, and others.[10]

Skyfire 2.x builds on the open source WebKit layout engine.

Skyfire 3.x[edit]

includes more available website support for video

Skyfire 4.x[edit]


Skyfire 1.x[edit]

The browser is supported on devices of various resolutions, including 240x240, 320x320, QVGA, WQVGA, VGA, and WVGA resolution screens. It runs on touch and non-touch phones.[11]

Although Skyfire 1.x has never been officially available outside the US, Canada, and portions of Western Europe, as of 2010 users worldwide had installed and run the browser. On July 1, 2010, Skyfire implemented restrictions to prevent use from most unsupported areas.[12]

Skyfire 2.x[edit]

Skyfire 2.x is available for Android and iOS devices. Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2 phones are supported. It is distributed via the Android Market. The iOS version supports any iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 4 or above.

Unlike 1.x, Skyfire 2.x is not actively limited to a supported area.

The current version is Skyfire 2.x is 2.3.[13]

Skyfire 3.x[edit]

Skyfire 3.x is currently available for devices running Android 2.0 or above, or iOS. Devices with Android 1.5 or 1.6 can still use Skyfire 2.3.

Skyfire 4.x and Skyfire Video License Key[edit]

Version 4.0 was made available for Android on April 21, 2011. Starting with 4.0, the SkyBar toolbar is now configurable and expandable, enabling users to customize their Skyfire experience. With the new scrollable SkyBar, users now have access to fourteen Skyfire features and have the ability to enable, disable and position each button as desired. Also, eight new feature buttons were added into the SkyBar.

  • Twitter – Login here to have one-touch access to Twitter streams. Tweet, search, and check in with the Twittersphere without leaving the Skyfire browser. Watch videos shared on Twitter with one click.
  • Groupon – Lets SkyBar deliver nearby deals so users can quickly check on the deal of the day at all times.
  • Share – Easily share websites, articles, pictures, videos; feature previously accessible through the Skyfire menu.
  • Google Reader – Keeps up with feeds from favorite sites, keeps users informed by constantly checking selected news sites and blogs for new content.
  • Sports, News, Finance – Bring one-touch access to recent events.
  • Settings – Can be considered a customize button. Use it to enable, disable or position SkyBar features to personal preferences.

Also, with this version, all new customers must download the $2.99 Skyfire Video License Key to use the video feature after a 3-day trial.

Performance and other issues[edit]

Skyfire text rendering example 1
Skyfire text rendering example 1
Skyfire text rendering example 2
Skyfire text rendering example 2

Although the recently added Android version of Skyfire has been updated to 2.0, Symbian and Windows Mobile are limited to version 1.5. Skyfire 1.5 users have, for more than six months, registered complaints regarding slow page loading and the inability to view web videos without severe frame rate and audio glitches. Though since skyfire has implemented restrictions to prevent use from most unsupported countries, page loading and viewing web videos has improved. Other complaints center on a text-rendering feature that enlarges some text several times its normal size. The original intent was to remove the need for the user to "zoom in" to the text of articles. However, the fragmented and seemingly random nature of the feature requires repeated zooming in to read captions, view pictures, find links and navigate a given website, then zooming out to read an article. The large, pixellated characters thus make even casual browsing (according to one editor's opinion) an awkward proposition. Unlike in prior versions of Skyfire, the text-rendering feature is locked in with no option to turn it off.[14][15][16][17][18]

A new concern has cropped up as of early June: in conjunction with virtually unplayable video, standard web pages can take between two and three minutes to load.[19]

Skyfire's privacy policy states that "no data is ever transmitted to our servers when users access secure (HTTPS) sites".[20] If Skyfire were to transcode HTTPS sites, that would create a potential security risk.[21]

Windows Mobile support (aka WMS)[edit]

In November 2010, Windows Mobile users began reporting that Skyfire would immediately close upon opening, stating "Sorry: Due to strong demand we cannot provide service at this time. Please try again later."[22] Several days later, the Skyfire developers announced that they would be ending support for Symbian and Windows Mobile,[23] and possibly releasing Skyfire 2.x for the Windows Phone 7 and MeeGo platforms at a later date.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Skyfire's Web Browser has won numerous awards over the years. In 2008, it was voted one of the six must have applications for Windows Mobile by Read Write Web[24] and also received the Mobile Maverick Award from Laptop Magazine.[25] It received the Webby People's Voice Award for Best Mobile Application in 2009 [26] and was also recognized in 2010 by PC World as the World's Best Third-Party Android Browser.[27]

Organization Award Date Award / Recognition Title
CNN 2012 10 Best Travel Apps For iPad[28]
Yahoo News / Appolicious 2012 #2 in Best Free Android Apps of All Time[29]
Time Magazine 2012 50 Best iPhone Apps 2012[30]
Apple 2011 Top iPad Utility of 2011[31]
Tech Crunch 2010 #10 in top 40 iPhone Apps of 2010[32]
Tech Crunch 2010 #2 Android App of All Time[33]
Into Mobile 2010 #6 in Best iOS Apps of 2010[34]
Tech Crunch 2010 No. 2 Adroid App of All Time
PC Magazine 2010 World Best Third-Party Android Browser
Webby 2009 People’s Voice Award for Best Mobile Application
Read Write Web 2008 One of top 6 Mobile Apps to Have
Laptop Magazine 2008 Mobile Maverick Award


  1. ^ Get Skyfire page at Skyfire site
  2. ^ "Retirement of Legacy 1.0 Product". Skyfire Blog. Skyfire. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Skyfire brings desktop-quality browsing to your phone, CNET
  4. ^ Skyfire 2.0 for Android Launches!
  5. ^ Ars Technica, Hands on: SkyFire browser brings Gecko to Windows Mobile
  6. ^ CNET - - Skyfire now browsing north of the border
  7. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Problems With Viewing Tv Shows
  8. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Sound Skipping/Looping In Videos On 1.5
  9. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Slow Page Loading
  10. ^ What media types are supported?
  11. ^ Skyfire 1.5 Support
  12. ^ Focus, Geography, and Skyfire 1.0
  13. ^ Get Skyfire page at Skyfire site
  14. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Sound Skipping/Looping In Videos On 1.5
  15. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Performance Issues
  16. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Symbian/winmo Skyfire 2.0?
  17. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Skyfire Text Size And Video Streaming
  18. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Text Size "feature"?
  19. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Trouble Loading Web Pages
  20. ^ "Privacy Policy". Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  21. ^ Tom Godber (2009). "How Do Transcoders Affect HTTPS?". Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  22. ^ Skyfire Forums - - Not Working Due To Strong Demand
  23. ^ Retirement of Legacy 1.0 Product
  24. ^ Read Write Web. "6 Must Have Mobile Apps for Windows Mobile". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  25. ^ Laptop Magazine. "Skyfire: Mobile Maverick Award Winner 2008". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  26. ^ Enhanced Online News. (Press Release) "Skyfire’s Mobile Browswer Wins Prestigious 2009 Webby for Best Mobile Application". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  27. ^ PC World. </ "Battle of the Android Browsers". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  28. ^ CNN. "10 Best Travel Apps For Your New iPad". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  29. ^ Yahoo News - Appolicious. "Best Free Android Apps of all Time". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  30. ^ Time Magazine - Technland. "50 Best iPhone Apps 2012". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  31. ^ Skyfire Blog. "Top Apps". Retrieved 14 June 2012 (Entry Shows Screenshot of Appstore Rewind). 
  32. ^ Tech Crunch. "Top 40 iPhone Apps of 2010". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  33. ^ Tech Crunch. "Top 30 Android Apps of All Time". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  34. ^ Into Mobile. "IntoMobile’s Top iPhone And iOS Apps of 2010". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]