Thoughts on Flock

Flock is a “social web browser”
designed for Web 2.0 based on Firefox. It’s pretty much Firefox but it
has some cool extra features like the “Shelf” which allows you to store
snippets of text or images, and easy integration with del.icio.us
bookmarks, flickr photos and blogging. I just tried it out and it’s a
nice concept but to be honest, I’m underwhelmed.

The first thing
I noticed when I installed Flock and loaded it up for the first time
was two error messages – something to do with profiles. Flock seems to
have imported some extensions and themes I had installed on Firefox a
very, very long time ago. None of the extensions or themes were
actually enabled because none of them were compatible but it’s strange
that it imported the profile.

The first real comment on Flock is
I don’t like the default user interface. Sure, it’s stylish but it’s
not practical. There is no search box by default, no refresh button and
no stop button. These can be added by customizing the toolbars, but
this isn’t something you should have to do. The skin is evil – I’d much
prefer a skin which looks more Windows native. The missing stop,
refresh and search were super annoying though.

Another annoying
thing is that hardly any extensions are available for Flock although
the Web Developer extension is available. Since Flock is practically
Firefox with some extra features, it’d be cool if Flock would be
compatible with Firefox extensions in future.

One of the biggest
changes which you notice straight away is that Bookmarks have been
ripped out and replaced with Favourites. This integrates with
del.icio.us. Since I don’t want to share my bookmarks, I chose not to
publish bookmarks on del.icio.us. In fact, it was probably more to do
with the fact I couldn’t be bothered to sign up. Future versions of
Flock should allow you to choose different services to store your
bookmarks.

Adding a favourite wasn’t that easy. You can click
on the Favourites menu and your asked whether you want to Star or Star
and Tag the page. Way too much terminology for the average end user. By
default, clicking on the Star icon next to the address bar also does
nothing. You need to hit that tiny small arrow. I enabled clicking on
the star to add and tag in the Options > Web Services dialog which
made is a lot more pleasant to use.

It’s nice having tagging, but
I don’t like Flock’s implementation. The Favourites menu doesn’t
provide quick and easy access to your favourites. You can access your
favourites through the ‘Manage your Favourites’ menu item which allows
you to see favourites in different tags but it’s not really that easy
to use. Flock also has collections. This is another way of organizing
your bookmarks. I have no idea how it works or how to add a favourite
to a collection.

Flock isn’t all bad – the frequently visited
sites menu is nice and the shelf feature is cool. You can drag and drop
content to the shelf and it’ll remember it like a clipboard-type
application. You can then drag and drop it back at a later date to the
address bar, blog window, whatever. I would have liked to have been
able to make the shelf stay on top or dock into the sidebar as I
usually run my browser at full screen and it is hard to use the Shelf
when it is hidden behind the main browser window.

The
blog
integration worked (although I did have to sign up to a new blogging
service) but I didn’t find it that much easier to manage my blog
through Flock. Some
of the icons used in Flock are quite ambiguous and non standard so
making a blog post and using the editor is confusing. Being able to
drag and drop bits from web pages to create a new blog entry with a
citation was a nice feature. Flock also allows you to ping sites such
as Technorati whenever you make a post but most blog software does this
anyway.

Yahoo! Search was the default search
engine – this was frustrating since I use Google. Sure, it’s not hard
to change but it’s small things like these which make all the
difference.

Flock doesn’t add that much to your browsing
experience unless you use del.icio.us, flickr and a blogging system
supported by Flock. I found Firefox much easier and enjoyable to
operate (cleaner menus, cleaner options, extensions, themes, etc.) I’m
not sure what the Flock guys plan to add but perhaps it’d be a good
idea to distribute Flock as an extension rather than a whole browser to
replace Firefox.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Flock

  1. OMG!!11! WTF!!! Fl0CK STOLE HTML FROM OPERA!!!111!!!

    Get over it will you? The very nature of Open Source encourages this ‘stealing’, and the end resault is something far better than the original.

  2. On further inspection, it seems that not having many of the buttons on my default Flock user interface was due to Flock deciding to import some of my old Firefox settings so I retract my statements about the default user interface not having stop/refresh/search box.

    The History search in Flock is pretty funky. 

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