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Is Chrome the New Color of the Web? September 3, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Social networking, Web browsers, Web productivity.
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Photo by Randy Zhang on Flickr. License information at http://tinyurl.com/2mawah

Google recently unveiled its new web browser, Chrome. While Chrome does show promise, it isn’t enough to for me to make it my default web browser instead of Flock.

I will say that it is clearly more advanced and intuitive than the Internet Explorer and that’s just in Chrome’s beta version. According to Cnet, Chrome’s apparently giving FireFox a run for its money as well in terms of speed and robustness.

Chrome does have a few features I really like. The independent tabs not causing the whole browser to crash if one of them experiences an error and the superior recovery support Chrome boasts are long overdue. Being able to create desktop or task bar shortcuts to my favorite web apps like Google Calendar, Twitter and Librarything is also a plus since I can go instantly to my account without having to open a traditional browser.

But in its current beta version I still don’t think Chrome beats Flock in terms of user experience and web productivity. Web 2.0 has blown away the expectations of being spoon fed content and Flock excels at allowing users to create and share dynamic content easily. With Flock I instantly know if one of my friends has sent me a direct Tweet on Twitter or message on Facebook. I can click one button and instantly email a webpage to any of my contacts or I can drag a photo from Flickr to a friend’s icon on Facebook to share my image.

For users like me the social interaction Flock enables can’t be beat; this doesn’t mean Chrome’s doomed to failure though. Streamlining these social networking accounts into the browser would likely encourage more people to use Chrome. Another thing to keep in mind is not all users are for lack of a better term “power Web 2.0 users” or may have access to the sites that give Flock its edge blocked in certain situations (like work or school). In those cases Chrome could become the web browser of choice. However, I’m sure with Chrome in its beta version we haven’t seen Google break out all the bling on its shiny new web warrior just yet.


Web Surfers of a Feather Can Flock Together March 26, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Information Sharing, Social networking, Web 2.0, Web applications, Web browsers, Web productivity.
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Let’s face it, Web 2.0 created a new kind of internet junkie, one no longer willing to remain a passive audience. With the rise of sites like YouTube, facebook, Flickr, and many others web aficionados are accustomed to organizing or creating content themselves. Now, there’s a new web browser to make content generation even easier.

Flock is a web browser targeted for Web 2.0 users. It’s actually based off of Mozilla technical architecture so it has a general Firefox feel to its interface and loads web pages quickly. But this browser adds features that Firefox only touched on as an after thought. Flock interfaces directly with Facebook, Piczo, Twitter, YouTube, Ma.gnolia, flickr, Picasa, photobucket, Gmail, Yahoo mail, tons of blogging applications, search engines galore, and del.icio.us for a seamless interactive experience.

Not daring to believe that an upstart could surpass Firefox in terms of user experience I downloaded Flock and in less than three days made it my default browser. The features really do change the way I surf the web and are useful for Information Professionals and internet junkies alike. The features that sold me on the browser are:

  • Social Networking Integration. I’m an avid facebook user and with their new privacy settings, I use it for both professional and social networking. Flock’s easy to follow instructions allowed me to integrate my facebook account into what it calls its “People” sidebar. From here I can view all my friends status’s, any messages, friend requests, pokes, and group or event requests without ever having to visit my profile. To make it even better Flock includes a MediaStream (its like RSS only for videos and pictures) which you can open in the browser to drag and drop media onto your friends’ in the People sidebar. I sent one of my friends a photo of a museum tour we took together and Flock flawlessly attached the photo to a facebook message automatically so I just had to hit the send key. This has great potential for professionals as well as personal use if future versions of Flock enable file sharing (like Google Docs).
  • Photo Uploading. I like to upload my pictures to Flickr so I have them backed up remotely but like to keep them pretty private. Flock’s photo uploader allowed me to add both batch and individual tags to my photos at the same time, set my privacy preferences and then upload them to my Flickr account. This interface was actually much easier to use that Flickr’s own uploader. Furthermore my Flickr account was also added to the People sidebar allowing me instant access to my photos via the MediaStream I mentioned above without ever having to visit Flickr. The photo I shared with my facebook friend was actually a Flickr photo I uploaded via Flock. The MediaStream also let me search for pictures on Flickr, although this search feature searches everyones photos and didn’t let me limit it to my own.
  • Search Engines. Here come the heavyweight features that Information Professionals are bound to love. Flock integrates a myriad of search engines right into your browser tool bar and allows you to set one as default. I’ve loaded Yahoo, eBay, PriceGrabber, Urban Dictionary, Technorati, Wink, and set Google as my default but there are plenty of others to add as well. Switching between your search engines in your tool bar takes two clicks and you can search by your default engine simply by highlighting text on the page and right clicking.
  • Email. I have a Gmail and Yahoo mail account, one for friends/family/shopping and one for professional use. I like to monitor them both pretty regularly and hated having to open a new window/tab just to check to see if I had new mail and then navigate to the actual message. By clicking the Email icon in the tool bar I could see if I had any new mail, what the subject was and who was the sender. To read it I just had to click on the message and Flock opened a new tab for me and took me directly to the message I clicked. This ended up being a huge time saver in navigation and new mail alerts.
  • Blogging. Internet Junkies and Information Professionals should be thrilled by this alike. Flock integrates with just about any major blogging application you can think of. By clicking the Blog icon on the Flock tool bar you open the “Blog Post Window”. This blog editor was at least as good as both Blogger and WordPress and allows users to compose a post complete with photos (can be inserted manually or via the MediaStream), links, and tags. After you complete your post you can choose which blogging application you want it posted to without having to visit the site and logging in. I actually completed this entire post via the Flock interface and was pleased by its usability.

Since its launch in November of 2007 Flock has demonstrated a number of promising success metrics. According to Flock CEO, Shawn Hardin in a Webware interview Flock had a 96% rating in user satisfaction and more than 71% of its current users have already made Flock their default web browser. Even more promising for Flock which makes money via a search based revenue model (where the number of active users is closely tied to profits) is that its active user base has increased by 50% a month since its launch.

There’s plenty of room for future growth by adding more features. The text RSS feed reader included in Flock is nothing special so I’d be interested in seeing if Flock tries to develop this feature the way it has some of its others. It’d also be interesting to see IM functionality similar to Meebo so users could integrate all their IM accounts within the browser. Another feature that would make Flock a surefire success is to allow users to download the Flock software and create user accounts that they can access via any computer with Flock installed. As it stands now, if I wanted to use Flock both at home and work I’d have to download Flock to both computers, sync my bookmarks from Firefox, and then configure my settings on each to get a seamless experience. But even in its version 1 status Flock has the potential to change how we both work and play on the web.


Blogged with the Flock Browser