Friday, October 21, 2005

Flock Review

Flock Review

The curtain of large fonts on has been finally raised. Ladies and Gentlemen! Flock has arrived. Flock comes with a handful of interesting features, but has it lived to the hype? Unfortunately no. Not at this point.

As most of you know, Flock is built on the solid Firefox codebase by none other than former key Firefox developers. This means that in terms of browsing a website, you will not see a lot of difference. Flock’s innovation is primarily in two areas: information organization, and social browsing.

We all know how much of a pain it is to bookmark and organize a large number of sites. Flock solves this problem through tags and collections. With the click of the star button you can tag a website with easy to remember keywords like “music”, “movies”, etc. This is a good thing if you don’t want to share your bookmarks in, although the option is available to publish your tags to Collections, as the name says, is simply a collection of websites under some heading like “Web2.0 sites”. Flock makes it really easy to browse through your saved sites by showing them in the full screen. It will be cool for them to add a tag search feature, so that if I type movies in the search box, I simply get all the sites under “movies” tag.

Another cool thing is that flock keeps a list of frequently visited sites. The concept is cool but implementation is a somewhat buggy. For example, I saw Senior Friend Finder in my list and I don’t think I ever visited that site or intend to visit it in near future. My guess is that Flock is saving hidden pop-ups in this list!

Shelf is a neat little tool to store random blurbs of text copied from websites. But, where is the search button to handle this list if it grows too large? When you bring up the Shelf button, it invites you to “Drag and Drop Things” into it, but when you try to do so, the little bastard disappears. What would be better is simply showing a menu item saying “Add this to shelf” when a user selects some text in a page.

Flock touted social browsing as its USP, but I think this is where it fails. I am not sure if a browser is the right place to put a blog editer. I would much rather have it in something like Open-Office or Word. Blogger already has a plug-in for word and I think that is the way to go. I don’t think there is any need for yet another editor. Instead, I would have loved to see a dictionary or spell-check. Firefox already has the beautiful midas framework for embedded rich-text editing. And to make it worse, the new editor is buggy. For photo-blogging, a better option will be simply a Windows XP extension to add a menu item like “publish to flickr” to the right click menu in windows explorer. I am not able to buy the idea of social browser, but hope that the esteemed Flockers will release something later to convince me.

Some other notable things are integration with Yahoo, Google, Wikipedia, etc. I am curious to know why Yahoo is the default. Good news for users of public computers: you can clean all the cache – the links, pages, password, and everything that counts by clicking just one button – “Clear Private Data”. Also present is a feed aggregator and reader.

To sum it up, Flock comes with some valuable additions to Firefox, but its main claim of social browsing appears to be conceptually weak. I would use Flock simply because of the organization tools. It is also a good step by the Firefox camp to prepare for competition from IE7.


At 2:09 PM, Blogger nogobro said...

not a single Firefox developer is in any way involved in Flock. That's a myth that I'm sure they're happy to see spreading but it's simply untrue. They have one guy that was a Mozilla marketing guy for a while and that's it.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Factory Joe said...

That's pretty much true, it was the MSM that perpetuated the myth that it was all these core FF devs moving to Flock.

In reality, Bart, our CEO did work for Mozilla and helped spearhead the Firefox 1.0 launch and worked on many of the licensing and legal aspects of the project.

Personally I worked with him and Daryl Houston, our sysadmin/community shepherd on the Spread Firefox project. In that way, we did work on Mozilla before starting Round Two, which eventually became Flock.

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