Review: Flock--Open Source Social Media Browser
If you are a social media hound you probably have a Flickr Uploader, a web browser chock full of extensions, maybe a Twitter client like Twhirl, and a slew of other tools for interacting on the web. Maybe it's time to consolidate all these tools into your web browser. That's where Flock comes in it's a web browser for the collaborative web.
Flock is an open source web browser built on the same Mozilla architecture that Firefox is built on so many of Flock's features should be familiar, like tab-based browsing and the ability to add extensions. However, there are a number of cool new features that appeal to the social networking crowd . First their are additional tools that can displayed in a tool bar on the left hand side of your browser (RSS reader, People feed, Web Clipboard, and a media bar that displays your photos and video across the top of your browser window.
Social Media Features
On a typical day I Instant message, post to two separate blogs, bookmark on deli.icio.us, upload pictures to Flickr, create and edit documents in Google Docs, and read a ton of RSS feeds. Normally my desktop is overwhelmed with clutter. If you are looking to consolidate Flock aims to include all your tools in a single application. You also can track many of your accounts and services in a single control panel. For example, you
I post to two blogs on a daily basis in Firefox I really like the Scribefire extension, or I edit my blog directly in my Word Press WYSIWYG editor. Flock allows you to set up all your blogging accounts from Flock and offers a simple simple blog editor. It's handy but my complaint is that you can't save drafts you can only publish your Flock edited posts.
After the big FriendFeed blitz last week it became apparent that their is no end in sight to the number of social networks we will be asked to join, aggregating them is a never ending process. Flock allows you to login to a large but not exhaustive list of social networks but hits the popular ones like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. They also give you a People feed that is similar to what you would see at FriendFeed or Plaxo Pulse.
The RSS Reader is probably one of the features I like more than anything else. It's really not that the reader is so much better than anything else and you could get the same effect with Sage for Firefox but I still really like the reader interface and with web-based browsers you can use your del.icio.us plug-ins another social bookmarking tools you install in your browser.
Media Mini Bar
I like the Media Bar that allows me to view media streams and drag and drop pictures from Flickr, Photobucket, or video from YouTube. It's very convenient to search for media and display it in and drag it into my blog editor.
If you upload photos to Flickr you might use the Flickr web interface or tools like the Flickr Uploader. The Flock Photo Uploader supports both Flickr and Photobucket for pasting photos into blogs. Nice inclusiveness but I am not sure that it saves all that much time.
Web Media Clipboard
I save a lot of types of media when I surf and having a clipboard is nice but if I am using the Flock RSS reader I can't view my web clipboard, having the ability to keep both open even if the clipboard was along the top would make this much more useful. When dragging media from the bar to Mail.App in OS X it didn't bring the image over just the link which was less interesting then I would have liked.
I like having my Twitter client integrated in my web browser but the refresh rate seemed a little slow. I would also like to see a total microblogging/instant messaging sidebar so I could combine Twitter and my chat clients.
Flock is just released version 1.1 including new features like Picasa integration and web mail integration with Gmail and Yahoo! mail. I really like the inclusiveness of the Flock browser. The sidebar is very useful but it's hard to be deep with every feature set such as the RSS feature and the Twitter integration. I think the web clipboard is very useful but there are other types of clipboards that are universal for all your applications are better tools for someone going to Where I think Flock falls down is in it's resource footprint, it seems to be a little sluggish in comparison to Firefox. If you want fast performance and don't care about all the other stuff then stick with Firefox but if you want a single tool for all your Web 2.0 needs you can probably save some time with Flock but you will still probably need some of your favorite Firefox extensions to make it meet all your needs.