Four days ago (I’m a bit slow) I received an email from the Flock Team telling me that the private beta of Flock 1.0 was available to try out. So now that I have some spare time, I thought I would take it for a quick spin around the Webs to see if it has any chance of standing out in the already over crowded browser market.
For those of you who don’t know, Flock is a Firefox based "Social Web Browser". What separates it from the pack is how it interacts with social and web-based applications, such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, del.icio.us, Photobucket, Blogger, LiveJournal, Typepad, WordPress, Xanga, Magnolia, and as of this release, Facebook.
I remember first hearing about Flock on Slashdot [article], but immediately wrote it off as another over-bloated application. Plus at the time (I hate to admit it), I was happy with my IE6, and wasn’t much of a fan of Firefox.
When Bart Decrem (coordinated the creation of the GNOME Foundation, was involved in the Mozilla Foundation) and Geoffrey Arone first released Flock to the public on October 21, 2005 (which coincidentally happens to be two years ago yesterday), the whole "Social" thing was still fairly new. MySpace was two years old (founded in August 2003), YouTube wasn’t even available to the public yet (‘YouTube.com’ was activated in February 2005, and didn’t go official till November 2005 – Wikipedia), Flickr and Facebook were both launched in February 2004, with the later being limited to students at specific schools.
|The dotted line is approximately Oct. 2005, when Flock was first released.|
So here we are with version 1.0 beta, two years after the initial release. Up until a few weeks ago when I was writing "10+ FREE Blogging Editors", I have never used, let alone laid eyes on the previous versions of Flock (in case you’re wondering, it has a built in blog editor, and that’s how I came across it after all these years). So anything I say here is from an almost first time user, a Flock virgin.
This is the first feature that drew me to Flock a couple of weeks ago. Their Blog Editor is able to save to several different blog services, such as Blogger, Blogsome, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress.com, Xanga, and even Self-Hosted Blogs, which is what I used. When I originally tested it out with the Flock Blog Plus, Add-on I loved it, and thought it was one of the better editors that I had tried (read review).
Unfortunately in this version, they’ve taken about 10 steps back with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a half decent editor, however it’s missing a lot of the extra features (Tag Plus, hCalendar, Dictionary/Thesaurus, Quikmaps, and the ability to minimize into the browser window) that made it great.
Update: The features that I mentioned above are actually part of the Flock Blog Plus extension. It looks like there is a compatibility issue with the extension and the 1.0 Beta version of Flock.
This neat little feature that sits in your sidebar allows you to drag URLs, photos, videos and text into it, and then drag them back out later on into blogs, emails, etc.
I was unable to drag text from one of their pages into it, but images worked. I also tried to drag a video from YouTube into it, but again didn’t have any luck. However this time I was able to drag text.
For blogging, I can see this being a handy utility.
Like most features in Flock, this one too sits primarily in your sidebar. The reason why I say primarily, is because clicking on any of the feeds in the sidebar, or "All Articles" will load up all of the articles into a new tab, where you can view them as only Headlines, as Excerpts or in Full. Also you can Articles view from a single column to Double column
It’s not no Google Reader, but I think that for most people out there, it’s more than enough.
I’m pretty surprised that they decided to go out of their way to rename Bookmarks (Netscape/Mozilla) to Favorites (IE).
The one key feature that sets their’s apart from the others, is how they integrated your bookmarks from del.icio.us into it. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a huge plus.
Maybe it’s just me, but there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable way to add the current page that you are on into del.icio.us though.
The People sidebar lists all of your friends (up to 2000) from Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. The only one that I’m signed up with that has friends on it is Facebook, and I’m no where near the 2000 friend limit.
I think this is probably the greatest feature (until the Blog Editor gets fixed) in Flock. For Facebook, it lists all of your friends, with their image and status. Also there is a Media and Actions link. Clicking on the Media link will display all of that friend’s media from that service in the Media bar. Clicking on the Actions link (for Facebook) will allow you to Poke, Message, Wall Post, Share Link, View Profile, Give Gift or Tell Friend.
At the bottom of the People sidebar they’ve provided a "Search People" field and a drop down list to sort your friends by Name or Recent Activity.
This feature alone is worth getting Flock.
Last, but not least is the Media Bar which I just mentioned above. This bar, unlike most of the other features, doesn’t sit in the sidebar, instead it’s positioned just above the tabs (or can be placed at the bottom), and allows you to scroll back and forth through the images or videos.
By default it allows you to view images and videos from Flickr (Recent Public Photos, Interestingness), Photobucket (Recent Public Photos), Truveo (All, Top Favorites, Most Popular, Best of ABC, Best of MySpace, Best of Disney, Best of BBC News) and YouTube (Recently Added, Recently Featured, Top Favorites, Top Rated).
Its’ a Keeper.
Although it does have some glitches that need to be ironed out for the final release, I’m really impressed by what it has to offer so far and won’t be uninstalling anytime soon. In fact, I think I’ll make it my #2 browser behind Opera, and ahead of IE and Firefox.