Today I have been playing around with the social web browser Flock. Flock is based off of Mozilla Firefox 1.5 and has integrated support for services such as photobucket, flickr, del.icio.us and various blogs. Like so many things, I first heard about flock at SHDH13 after overhearing Chris Messina talk about it. After looking into it I became interested in the idea of a social browser (Or hipster browser as my co-worker Kyle calls it). After about a month I have finally found the time to sit down and take a look at the newest version of this browser.
The setup process was very smooth; I was able to import my settings from Firefox and setup my del.icio.us, flickr, and blog without issue. I was even able to install some of my favorite firefox plug-ins (Fetch Text URL and Firebug) pretty easily. Once setup, the browser’s flaws quickly revelead themselves. Here is a list of features I would like to see in the browser to make it a more user-friendly experience.
- Gallery2 support: It’s great that Flock has integrated online photo service support, but what about the people who host their own gallerys? (such as myself) Most of my photos reside my gallery2 photo gallery. The photo feature is of very little use to me because I don’t use flickr as my primary photo service (but that might change in the future).
- ma.gnolia support: This doesn’t bug me as much as my previous concern, but it would be nice to have support for this other bookmarking service. I might actually be making the switch from del.icio.us to ma.gnolia in the future, but that’s a whole other blog post ;-)
- Firefox 2.0 features: This should be obvious and is already a big discussion topic on the flock forums. The two biggest features I miss from FF2 are the spell checker for textareas and the support for 3rd-party RSS readers when clicking on the RSS feed icon. With flock you only have the option to add RSS feeds to the built-in reader, which I am not a big fan of.
- Blogging features: I really like the idea of being able to update my blog from my web browser. The biggest use I can see from this feature is being able to blog on the fly about a website I’m visiting; however, where is the button to add the URL of the site you’re visiting at? Also, what about saving the blog post you’re working on instead of only being able to publish it? Don’t get me started on tagging options…
- Default buttons: I think the blog button should appear by default on the toolbar, if you have a blog configured, for quick access. Why else would you setup your blog on the browser?
- Bookmark support: Overall this had to have been the biggest disappointment about the browser. When I read it could integrate my del.icio.us bookmarks to my bookmarks, I was sold. When I saw my bookmarks however, I saw well….nothing. I finally did find my del.icio.us bookmarks in the favorites manager; Even this wasn’t all that impressive. First off, I feel the bookmarks should have the option to be in the main bookmarks menu or at least have their own folder. Furthur, what about sorting bookmarks by tags? Perhaps a folder per tag with bookmarks in those folders with that particular tag? It would beat displaying the tags as a comma-separated value.
- Quick search: Where is the support for this? I’m sure Flock has it built in somewhere (since it is built off of Firefox), but I think it should be more obvious of how to add/edit quick search links.
- Starring: This seems like a promising feature, but I think it needs to be more customizable. I thought I saw something about adding the sites I star to del.icio.us, but it seems to be gone. From what I gather, a starred site appears in your “recent favorites” folder. It’s nice, but I would like to see the ability to customize its function.
Overall Flock is a great idea that is still in its infancy. It has some features that are still left undiscovered, so I plan on playing with it some more. Once the community grows larger, I expect great things out of this browser. I still plan on sticking with firefox 2.0 for my browsing needs, but I will be keeping a eye on Flock.