Why Isn't Anyone 'Flock'ing?


FlockAs of July 2009, Mozilla’s Firefox accounted for nearly 23% of all browser usage – making it the second most popular Web browser worldwide behind Microsoft’s many versions of Internet Explorer, which claim 68% of the browser-usage pie.

While these two browsers are the most popular, there are several others – including Opera, Chrome and Safari – which begs the question, is there room for anybody else?

Of course there is, but getting people to switch browsers is a difficult task. Nonetheless it’s a challenge that Flock, which launched version 2.5 in May, is prepared to take on.

Built on Mozilla’s Firefox codebase, Flock specializes in social networking and Web 2.0 facilities, integrating the most popular social networking platforms – MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and much more – into its service. Why will this matter to the Internet- and social-network-using public? Simple. The keyword here is “integrating.” When logging into any of the supported social services, Flock can track updates from friends: profiles, uploaded photos, and more, and Flock’s latest 2.5 version added Twiter Search functionality, multi-casting of status updates to multiple services, and the introduction of instant messaging via Facebook Chat in the browser. It’s an all-in-one – and it’s about time.

According to Wikipedia, Flock has a ton of other attractive features, like:

  • native sharing of text, links, photos and videos;
  • a “Media Bar” showing preview of online videos and photos as well as subscription to photo and video feeds;
  • a feed reader supporting Atom, RSS and Media RSS feeds;
  • a blog editor and reader, allowing direct posting into any designated blog;
  • a Webkit-mail component allowing users to check supported web-based e-mail off site, compose new messages, and drag and drop pictures and videos from the “Media Bar” or webclipboard into a new email message;
  • support for third party add-ons, including a number of Firefix extensions.

Since its beta debut two years ago, Flock has been well-received by the industry (in February 2008, AOL announced that it would discontinue support for the Netscape browser – so long, sucka! – and recommended Flock and Firefox as alternative browsers to its userbase of Netscape 9 users), and Flock has consistently won awards, most notably a Webby Award in social networking in 2008.

In March 2008, Flock announced that they had seen “nearly 3 million downloads” and a 135% percent increase in active users in the first two months of 2008. They also announced “more than 70 percent of Flock users making it their default browser of choice.”

But in the grand scope of Internet usage, where new browsers and updated versions of existing browsers come and go like the tide, Flock has yet to really make a splash. In fact, we’re betting you’ve probably never heard of Flock – as least not in the context of actually using it. Which is a shame, because if Flock aims for anything it’s making your life online more convenient by centralizing all your Web connections.

Still, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks; we just hope this trick has a chance to sizzle before it fizzles.

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4 Responses to “Why Isn't Anyone 'Flock'ing?”


  1. 1 Nathan Mylott August 10, 2009 at 10:06 am

    I was using Flock for a while on my Mac. I’d heard of it but never tried it until a friend convinced me to. I loved it at first and quickly made it my default browser. But eventually I switched back to Firefox. Here are a few of the reasons why.

    First of all, many of my bookmarklets didn’t work properly in Flock. That might’ve been ok except the Firefox extensions that would’ve replaced those bookmarklets didn’t work either. Most of my extensions did work, but there were too many that didn’t. Just trying to post a page to Facebook or Friendfeed got to be a hassle.

    I couldn’t get any themes to work. So I never had anything other than the default view.

    It was just too much. There were too many features, too many buttons. It was just too much to try to learn how to use all this stuff and where to find what I wanted to do. I’m usually all about learning new software but not just to do mundane things that I regularly do with ease.

    Many of the features were just useless. I don’t need an RSS reader, I like Google Reader very much and reading them in Flock was tedious anyway. I don’t need a Twitter client, I have several that are much easier to use. I don’t need a blog editor as Blogger is very simple and straightforward to use and I have a Zemanta extension that enriches my blog posts. A picture uploader: how is this really any easier than just going to the site and doing it the normal way. A media bar: why? All the videos are right there laid out on the web page. The favorite places column in the My World view never worked and wouldn’t have been all that useful if it had.

    I could go on and on but I’m just gonna stop here. The point is, having all that built in is very cool but utterly pointless. The coolness of it didn’t outweigh the problem of all those bookmarklets and extensions not working.

    It’s a great concept and I hope it does take off. I encourage anyone reading this to disregard my remarks and please do try it anyway. I can’t count how many times I’ve read a blog post or a review where the writer didn’t like software that I loved, or found features useless that I found indispensable. But for me, I just never got to a comfort level with it and I think there’s a lot to be done to make this browser a good replacement for excellent browsers like Firefox and Chrome (though I’ve never used Chrome).

  2. 2 mknipp August 10, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Nathan. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and we respect that. We hope people will test it out like you did to find out if Flock is right for them.

  3. 3 Nathan Mylott August 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I do hope that Flock is a big success, I really do. I like that they have come out and tried to do something completely different. I hope that they find a way to implement what they have in a better way and find things to add to it that are more useful; things you can ONLY do in the Flock browser. I will be watching and testing future releases. Meanwhile I still have Flock on both my computers.

  4. 4 Gabriel August 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I really can’t imaging a browser like this being my standard. How bout a single really good firefox toolbar that covers this? I might just not be a big enough social networker.


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