Could RockMelt be to Facebook what Firefox Has Been for Google?

Rumors are flying that a new browser designed heavily around Facebook Connect called RockMelt is under development, with Netscape founder and Facebook board member Marc Andreessen behind the all-star team of engineers and developers. ReadWriteWeb is also reporting that the team currently handling the venture is made up of members of Andreessen’s former company, Opsware, and it’s new owner, HP, with potential involvement from current Facebook employees. However, one of the Facebook employees mentioned, Joe Hewitt, says he wasn’t aware of the project before yesterday.

RockMelt’s development is still pretty hush-hush, but it’s not too surprising that someone besides Flock is taking another shot at integrating functionality made possible by Facebook’s social graph more deeply into the browser. Facebook has become a robust communication platform for over 250 million active users around the world, and many features like presence, chat, content sharing, and stream monitoring make sense in a browser context.

But perhaps one of the more interesting areas a “Facebook browser” could make an impact is search. Currently, Google pays Mozilla a bounty every time Firefox is downloaded because Mozilla makes it the default search engine in the browser. Maybe RockMelt could be to Facebook what Mozilla is to Google – an important affiliate driver of search traffic. And many desktop applications built on top of the Twitter Search API play an important part of the search ecosystem for Twitter – the same will be true for Facebook.

A variety of other applications are possible too. For example, a “Facebook browser” would probably be able to charge significant CPA rates on traffic it drove to specific applications or Pages through in-browser promotions. We’ll be keeping an eye on RockMelt and will let you know as things progress.

Justin Smith contributed to this story.