Skyfire in Canada, eh?

Updated on 10/21/08 with more detail.

Starting Friday, Americans won't be the only ones able to test drive the newly opened beta for Skyfire's mobile browser.

Now Canadians can, too, after one or two tweaks to Skyfire's registration process gives northern numbers the green light.

While Canada may be the first country outside of the U.S. with a chance to download the mobile browsing alternative, it won't be the only one for long--Skyfire won't announce particulars, but did say that it expects to expand its service to other countries soon. This is the official word, of course. Some users tell us they unofficially downloaded Skyfire months ago using random U.S. phone numbers to register.

Skyfire's claim to fame is its zoomed-out browsing mode that replicates desktop browsing on a much smaller screen. A mouse lets you navigate around the page. You click as you would on a desktop browser to zoom in for a closer look.

By using a proxy server to help serve and render Web pages, Skyfire can also stream Flash video and support Ajax and Quicktime.

However, it's far from the only one of its kind. Skyfire mobile browser, which updated to version 0.8 just over a month ago, currently poses the most substantial competition to Opera Mobile 9.5 beta. Both Opera Mobile and Skyfire are available for Windows Mobile and Symbian phones. Opera Mobile slightly edges Skyfire in the model count with its additional support for Symbian UIQ handsets and its more toned feature set, but young Skyfire is quickly catching up and raising the stakes with a simplified interface that still packs the links in and decent video support.

As Skyfire fans its flame to Canada and other countries after that, Mozilla continues to develop its own mobile Firefox Mobile, code-named Fennec. We previewed the alpha installation for two Nokia models, and so far it looks great. But we'll really know where each stands on speed, video support, and navigability when the alpha code for Windows Mobile is released and we can compare Opera Mobile, Skyfire, and Firefox Mobile side by side.

In the meantime, Canadians and Americans can surf over to to download the version 0.8 beta.

What Skyfire's Symbian beta means for Opera

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.