Tag Archives | Flock

Flock: Officially Dead

I regret to say that this is almost certainly the last thing I’ll ever write about Flock. There was a time when it was my favorite Web browser. But being based on the Mozilla engine turned to be tricky, and last year Flock started all over again as a Chrome variant–one which was quite different from its earlier incarnation. Even if the move was logical, it was confusing.

In January, social gaming behemoth Zynga snapped up the team behind Flock–but not the browser or the company. (Most of the stories about the buyout, including mine, inaccurately said that Zynga had acquired Flock itself.) When Flock CEO Shawn Hardin’s blog post about the news didn’t say anything about the browser surviving, it was ominous. Today, it’s official: Flock is dead.

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Zynga Buys Flock

Flock, the “social browser” that was my favorite browser, period, for a time has been acquired by social gaming giant Zynga. Flock CEO Shawn Hardin’s post about the news has me worried–it doesn’t make clear what’s going to happen to the browser. That’s a bad sign in itself–if Zynga was going to continue work on it, wouldn’t he say so?–and his references to the Flock team working on social gaming and his use of the past tense when discussing Flock’s user base lead me to assume the worst.

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Flock 3.0: The Social Browser Gets a Reboot

Half  a decade ago, a startup called Flock was formed to build a “social browser” of the same name–a Web browser aimed at people who like to use the Web to share stuff and otherwise interact with other people. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the road the product ended up taking has been uncommonly twisty.

The original preview version of Flock, based on the same Mozilla browser code as Firefox, debuted in 2005. (Back then, only students could join Facebook; Twitter didn’t exist, period.) The first beta, which appeared a leisurely two years later, was significantly different and better; I liked it so much it became my default browser. Version 2.0 improved on it further.  But version 2.5, which appeared more than a year ago, was instantly obsolescent: It was based on Firefox 3.0 even though it appeared only shortly before Firefox 3.5 did, and there were rumors that Flock’s creators planned to dump Mozilla and move to Chromium, the open-source version of Google’s Chrome.

Fast forward to right now. It turns out that the rumors were true: Flock 3.0, which is now available as a beta download for Windows, is built on Chromium. Pretty much by definition, that means it’s significantly different from any version before it. But it turns out that the company hasn’t even tried to recreate the old Flock. This isn’t so much an upgrade as a reboot–an all-new answer to the question “What should a social browser be in 2010?”

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Firefox 3.5: The Technologizer Review

firefoxreviewWas it really fewer than five years ago that Firefox 1.0 debuted? Its arrival ended the dismal period in which only one browser–Microsoft’s mediocre Internet Explorer–seemed to be viable. With Firefox, Mozilla proved that millions of people were itching to adopt a better browser. And today, we find ourselves with multiple better browsers:  Not just Firefox, but also Google’s minimalist Chrome, Apple’s flashy Safari, the ever-inventive Opera, the highly social Flock, and even the no-longer-calcifying Internet Explorer 8.

All of which means that Firefox 3.5–which Mozilla plans to formally release today–is no longer a shoo-in for the distinction of being the favorite browser of browser fans. (As I write, Firefox 3.5 hasn’t replaced 3.0 yet on the Firefox home page, but the Windows and Mac versions are live on Mozilla’s FTP site.)

After having spent months with various pre-release versions of 3.5, though, I’m convinced that The Little Browser That Could remains the best choice for the widest array of folks. That’s as much for the virtues that Firefox has possessed for years as for new stuff: Version 3.5′ s improvements are about better speed, useful tweaks to existing features, catchup with other browsers, and early support for emerging Web standards. In other words, the browser sports no knockout new features. But the moves Mozilla has made are smart, and they’re more than enough for Firefox to keep pace with its fast-evolving rivals.

After thr jump, a look at what’s new in rough order of importance. Continue Reading →


Flock Gets Even More Social, Contemplates Its Future

flock-logoThere was a time when I called Flock, the Mozilla-based browser with a social bent, my favorite Web browser. Lately, however, I’ve flitted from browser to browser–it’s not unusual for me to use Firefox, Chrome, IE 8, and Safari in the course of a given day–and have found myself drifting away from Flock.  But the company released Flock 2.5, a new version today. And while it’s not bursting at the seams with new features, what’s there is formidable enough that I might find myself drifting back.

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Flock: Goodbye Mozilla, Hello Chrome?

Flock LogoTechCrunch’s Michael Arrington (who’s back from his month-long blogging hiatus) is reporting that one of my favorite products is going to undergo a radical change. Flock, the browser with built-in support for Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, will supposedly dump Mozilla, the platform that’s most famously used by Firefox, and build a new version of Flock that uses Google’s Chrome as its engine.

Arrington says that the Flock folks feel like they don’t get enough love from the Mozilla team, and while I don’t know if his scoop is the real deal and have no insider info on the back story here, I do recall once asking the Mozilla team a question that involved Flock, and feeling the tension in the room ratchet up a notch. It’s hard, of course, for Mozilla to both keep busy spreading Firefox and also help a Firefox rival like Flock be successful. But Flock might face the same challenges if it ends up working with Google. We’ll see.

A Chrome-based Flock could potentially have some upsides–the current version, like Firefox, is slow to load (on my Mac, anyhow) and sometimes feels piggy when it comes to resources. Chrome’s emphasis on efficiency could result in a meaner, leaner Flock. (At the moment, Chrome is Windows-only while Flock also speaks OS X and Linux, but Chrome’s support for those two OSes will likely be ready long before a Chromed Flock is complete.)

But if Flock does go the Chrome route, it has one major implication for current users: Right now, one nice thing about Flock is that it runs nearly all Firefox extensions just fine. There are surely Flock fans who, if forced to choose between sticking with Flock and keeping their favorite extensions, would keep the extensions and switch to Firefox. Given that Flock remains a cult favorite rather than the mass-market hit its creators would like it to be, it would be a shame if the lack of extensions bummed out too many of its existing users.

I’ve asked Flock if it has any comment on all this, and will report back…

Update! Here’s a statement from Flock CEO Shawn Hardin:

Flock hasn’t ceased development efforts on the Mozilla platform.  Our upcoming release of Flock 2.1 is built on the Mozilla platform. Having said that, the browser space is heating up, and we’ve seen a variety of new technologies emerge over the last several months that are appealing.

We always have and will continue to make architectural decisions that balance what’s best for our users and what’s best for Flock as a business.  This has resulted in a healthy, growing user base and business for Flock, and we expect this to continue in 2009. In fact, with almost seven million downloads almost entirely from word of mouth, Flock enjoys a highly satisfied user base (consistently over 92% customer satisfaction, with very strong net promoter scores, and an average of four hours of usage per day).

With a continuing focus on user-centered browser innovation, our team is in active research and development on a range of exciting new enhancements to Flock.   It is still far too early to comment on anything specific, but we are very excited about this design phase.

That’s not an acknowledgment that Flock is switching platforms, but it also falls very far short of the commitment to Mozilla you’d think Flock might express if TechCrunch’s report was hooey. It’s not startling that there’s going to be a Flock 2.1, or that it’ll be built on the existing Mozilla underpinnings–if Flock is indeed moving to Chrome, it’s going to take awhile, so an interim Mozilla-based update makes sense.


Flock: My Favorite Browser Officially Turns 2.0

A year ago, I declared Flock–the “social browser” built on top of Firefox–to be my favorite Web browser. I’m still a happy user, and am happy to report that the official, final version 2.0 is now available for download at the Flock site.

As before, Flock is a browser for folks who are major fans of social networking and media sites: It’s got built-in support for Facebook, Twitter, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, and other services that let you do things like update your Facebook status and check your friends’ statuses without going to Facebook, Digging stories without going to Digg, viewing your buddies’ Flickr streams, and so forth. Much of this is done through Flock’s People sidebar, which sits to the left of the Web page you’re on so your social tools are always available:

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Mossberg on Flock: Neat, Innovative, Not for Everyone

Over at All Things Digital, Walt Mossberg has reviewed the beta version of Flock 2.0, the new iteration of the product that I declared my favorite Web browser last fall. Walt likes all the stuff that Flock offers for multi-tasking social network fans–built-in support for Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, a bunch of blogging platforms, and a lot more. Ultimately, though, his bottom line is less than a rave:

“Flock does a good job at the tasks it sets for itself, but I would recommend it for only the heaviest and most impatient social networkers. For most others, Flock is overkill.”

Oddly enough, even though I spend most of my time in Flock these days and like it a lot, I can’t quibble with that assessment. In fact, when people ask me what browser to use, I recommend Firefox just as often as I do Flock–and if the person in question isn’t into social networking and media sharing, I tell them without hesitation that Firefox is their best option. (Walt takes Flock to task for being busy, and he’s right: For folks who want to take advantage of all its features, dealing with the clutter is worth it, but it’s probably intimidating and unneccesary if you’re not already a pretty sophisticated user of the Web.)

The best thing about Flock 2.0 is that the Flock crew quickly came out with a version built on top of Firefox 3.0. When that browser came out, I was worried that I wouldn’t get the 3.0 goodness for months, if at all–but I’m enjoying features like the Awesome Bar as much as if I was using them in Firefox rather than Flock.

I’ve said this before, but we live in a wonderful era for browser fans: Between Firefox, Flock, Safari, Opera, and, yes, Internet Explorer, there’s something for everybody, and nearly all sites that matter work equally well in all of them. (Exceptions remain, such as the inexcusably IE-only Walmart Music Store.) If Flock sounds intriguing, there’s no downside to downloading it and giving it a whirl. I agree with Walt that it’s overkill for a lot of people. But for some of us, it’s exactly the right browser, and I hope it’s successful enough to be around for a very long time.

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