Home Flock Version 0.9 Focuses on Social Media Discovery

Flock Version 0.9 Focuses on Social Media Discovery

This Tuesday social web browser Flock will release Version 0.9, as they inch towards the
full 1.0. Version 0.9 is currently available to
early adopters as a ‘Release Candidate’. I had an in-depth chat with Flock’s CEO Shawn
Hardin last week and I have been testing the 0.9 version too. The actual version I have
been running is 0.899.1, but the improvements over v0.7 are no less evident. Flock’s
latest upgrade is geared towards increased “discoverability” for users and further
delineates it from conventional browsers. Shawn explained the reasons behind these

Flock History and Version 0.7

Flock launched their social media browser amid a flurry of hype back in 2005. The
innovation for the Flock browser was originally billed as a marriage of social media and
Web 2.0 functionality. It initially met with mixed reviews, as Flock fell victim to
over-stimulated user expectations and “too much” attention. Version 0.7,
released June of 2006, was essentially not a great enough departure from Firefox – and
even with its innovative features, many users considered Flock as just a Firefox

The browser’s “less than perfect” entry into the market has not daunted
the over 1.5 million users who have downloaded it so far. Version 0.9 is really an
overhaul of the UI – focused on “discoverability”, or essentially relieving
the pain involved in integrating a new browser into a user’’s routine. As Steve
O’’Hear said in a great article about Flock on ZDNet, Flock is not simply a passive
browser experience, but a “write”-capable platform designed to enhance the
social media experience. The list of v0.9 additions and upgrades is too vast to list
completely, but Flock has added or upgraded features for: people aspects, the general
features, media bar, favorites, feeds, accounts, the Web clipboard, blog editor, search
and uploader aspects – all on a broad scale. 

Discovering Flock

Flock is a very elegant and well organized browser. I am as good a “test
rat” as there is, having been so anchored to IE over the years, so working with a
new browser for some days proved illuminating. The first thing I noticed about Flock was
the media bar, so prominently displayed at the top. This bar has superb flexibility and
is the heart of the video and image interface. Searching and acting on the various
services is a fairly “right in your face” function, as are most of the other inherent
functions. Shawn and I talked about the need for reducing the amount of clicks needed to
work with applications; this aspect was one of their main goals. From what I can tell,
virtually every Flock task can be completed in one or two clicks – and typing is

Media Bar in action

As an example: adding my WordPress blog was a two-click action. Posting straight from
the Flock UI is also simple and the resultant postings looked as if they had been created
in WP. Indeed every feature I tested proved to be a derivative of WordPress. Flock has
done an excellent job of making the “discovery” experience enjoyable and easy. What is
less evident initially is the amount of time and pain saved in performing what Flock
treats as simple click functions; where Fx or IE require more clicks. The bottom line is
that an old IE user like me learned more advanced features and functions over 3 or 4
days, than I probably know about IE in years of use.

Best of Flock

There is not a lot to dislike about Flock. My favorite features tend to be smaller
elements, but the most incomparable feature of this browser is its RSS display. Adding
feeds is performed in the same “one click” fashion as other elements and the feed sidebar
is excellent – but the RSS Reader really sets Flock apart in that full excerpts
(illustrated below), single column, headlines and double column formats can be

The media bar and the added functions within it are excellent as well. Scrolling
playlists are not new – but simple, searchable, drag and drop versions do not abound and
the Flock version is flexible. The current searchable services are Flickr, YouTube,
Photobucket and Truveo; and results can also be filtered. The ‘view as a mini’ function,
combined with drag and drop and the mouse-over preview shown in the next screenshot, make
this simple and fun to use.

RSS for R/WW configured to “full” article view

Little Things Mean A Lot

I tend to like “the details” or smaller elements of these startups, because developers
who pay attention to the little things tend to excel at making the more obvious features
too. I liked Flock the moment I noticed that I could change my search engine. You will
note that the options bar on the My World page displays several search engines and that I
have chosen hakia as the default. Favorites are segregated into local and online
categories, and they are also viewable in tree form as the graphic below points out. From
mouse-over descriptions of virtually every button, to the picture up there in the corner
of my son from my Flickr account, Flock has covered off all the little details.

My World with media bar collapsed


Despite the attention to detail in v0.9, there is currently a limited number of
external services supported. Outside of this one negative aspect (and the fact that the
tabs remind me too much of Firefox), Flock could be the most impressive browser of them
all. In our discussion, Shawn overloaded me with information about upcoming features and
improvements. Honestly, this version has far too many features to touch upon, but the
partner-friendly business model and version 0.9’s integrated search – which shortcuts
searches internally to provide faster and more relevant results – are just two of a dozen
or more great aspects to this version.

Flock is targeted at social networking users, but if more external services are
forthcoming and development continues to differentiate Flock from the others, it will be
a compelling product for its target users.

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