Yesterday I downloaded and fired up the Flock 1.1 release. What is Flock? Flock is a Firefox-based browser aimed toward the social-networking butterfly in all of us. But it's much more than that. How much more? Let's find out.
First and foremost - it's Firefox with a ton of plugins, so it's already starting off on the right foot. Next, it's right on target for what is probably going to be another wave of serious social networking. And let's face it, as much as I am not a fan, social networking is not going to go away. And as much as I am an anti-fan of social networking sites, Flock just might change my mind.
What Flock does is add sidebars and menus for social networking sites. From those sidebars you can watch your Facebook friends, your flickr friends, delic.io.us articles, multimedia, Web mail, etc. You can save articles, subscribe to RSS feeds - all the while you are browsing the network. It's almost overload to an already overloaded sect of people. How much so? Imagine being a child at Christmas and going into the largest toy store ever! You don't know where to look first. And it takes a while for you to pare it all down to the point where everything you are seeing is just what you want to see. But once you have it whittled down, it's outstanding. So much so, you might not be firing up plain-jane Firefox ever again.
I will confess that, for the longest time, I was never a fan of having everything in one place. I wanted my browser to only browse, my e-mail to only e-mail, my phone to only make calls, and my music player to only play music. Times have changed and so have I. Now I don't find it so horrible having many things in one window. Take for instance right now, I am entering my blog, following many news feeds, checking Web mail, looking at three other Web sites (via tabbed browsing), and still trying to figure out what more I can add to Flock. It's that good!
What I like about Flock:
- Simple integration into blogging sites, social networking sites
- Ability to follow multimedia sites
- Cross platform
- Drag and drop items from one site to another
- Solid code-base, thanks to Firefox
- Simple photo uploader
- User-friendly RSS feeds
- Insane amount of configuration options
- Doesn't seem to take too much of a hit on your CPU - no matter how much you follow
What I don't like about Flock:
- Distractions. Distractions. Distractions.
- Does not support all social networking sites (no Myspace - not that I mind that oversight)
- Learning curve could turn average users off
My impression of Flock, obviously, is a very positive one. However, I do not suffer from ADHD. Anyone with a mild case of ADHD would wind up lost in oblivion using Flock. There is that much there. And this is where most critics have hit Flock the hardest. But I see it much differently. If there is too much, remove some of the information. Flock is so highly configurable, you could strip it down to where you would think you were using plain old Firefox. Or you could add so much you wouldn't know where to begin looking.
Of course, Flock has its cons. Using Flock in a business environment might cause you to do much less work...unless following news and/or social networking sites is part of your job (in that case it will make your work day all too easy.) What I would like to see is the Flock dev team to allow plugins for such tools as Drupal or Xoops or other CMS-like tools. This would enable Flock to be really useful in a corporate environment.
But no matter how you look at it, Flock is an outstanding improvement on an already outstanding tool. It's Firefox on steroids and it's a tool you might find will overtake your current browser as your standard.
Give it a try!
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.