Why that new Flock rocks my world…

Flock v1.0 (RC3) for Mac
Click here to see full-sized image…

This is the new version of Flock in all its glory, version 1 (RC 3), for Mac, Windows and Linux.

While I disliked the earlier version which seemed nothing more than a Firefox with lots of social media related plugins, this new version is more tightly integrated and intelligently designed.

People Sidebar (on left)
Much like how I love using Adium as it aggregates all my instant messaging friends across services (e.g. ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, AIM, GTalk), Flock now features a convenient (and clever) “People” sidebar to show you the status of friends across social networks such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. If you notice carefully, it even shows how many updates have been made in each service, much like an inbox count! This saves me time checking in on these sites, especially since Facebook is so spammy (see Bacn) with all the apps and notifications. I must admit it does make me feel like I’m a rat-race seeing how everyone’s updating their Facebook profiles, uploading new photos to Flickr and so on.

My World (on center bottom)
As cheesy as the name sounds, it does a well-thought out aggregation of all your recent bookmarks, rss feeds and freshly posted media (e.g. Flickr, Youtube) from your friends. It’s clever because it just takes your account information and pulls all this data out for you. Feels like your very own Digg Spy, with category columns that make sense.

Media Stream (on center top)
I think they did a better job with their media stream feature this time. Not only does it make browsing photos from Flickr and videos from Youtube so much easier than viewing a regular web page, there’s a contextual menu where you can perform certain actions with the media, such as to share it via email, get the embed codes and so on. Time-saver once again.

There are tons of other features I haven’t even explored yet, but Flock now feels like a strong contender in my web browser repertoire. Integration with del.icio.us, suggested search (see top right), image uploading, blog posting and so much more are built right in. I’d highly recommend this as a blogger’s default web browser, since you can now see more and share more, all in less time.

At time of writing, the Flock official web site hasn’t listed the latest version on the front page, but you can download Flock version 1 (RC 3) over here.

Aside: Techcrunch thinks the latest Flock rocks as well….

  • http://www.bbautista.com Brandon

    Kevin, this looks like a great tool… but since it’s an application that needs to be installed and run separately, I’m much less likely to use it. If this were an AJAX based website that I could pull up in a regular browser, I’m certain that it’d be my new default page. Do you think that’s their eventual goal? Seems like a logical next step, and it would really increase the user base. If they don’t do it, I think someone else will take this idea and run with it. What do you think?

  • http://factoryjoe.com/ Chris R Messina

    @Brandon — Flock is a web browser based on Firefox, so it’s unlikely it’ll ever morph into an AJAX driven website. ;)

    On the contrary, the original idea and goal of Flock was to build a browser that treated people as “first class citizens” through unifying your social connections from various web services. A simple website would find this very hard to do, since you’d have to login against every remote service within the remote website; Flock OTOH is your browser, so it naturally is able to “see” every site you login to and then pull in your connections from it. It’s kind of like a social proxy that then builds a smart interface on top of those connections.

    As for using it everyday, Flock intends to become your regular browser, so it’s even more natural than having to pick a default webpage that you visit every day.

    Then again, I can’t really speak to their long term objectives; I helped start the company and then lead the initial interaction design and visioning but am no longer directly involved.

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Brandon + Chris:
    I understand where Brandon’s coming, but as Chris mentioned, it’s an “all-in-one” web browser, designed to replace the multiple tools one might already be using, to read and to share media on the web. Since I’ve no connections with Flock, I’ll be sharing from my user perspective.

    While I like Chris’ idea of Flock treating users as “first class citizens” over being at the beck and call of the larger network (e.g. logging in to check messages, etc), that’s not to say Brandon’s idea is fruitless. Meebo has shown us how it is able to remotely connect to multiple IM services and aggregate our IM contacts as one.

    Flickr, Youtube and Facebook allow you to “authorize” third party services access to your account, and so Flock’s “People” sidebar could possibly be made into an all out AJAX or Flash web site as you’ve mentioned. Stretching it further, I foresee that Meebo could expand their IM service to include social networks. Likewise, I’d suggest the same idea to the developers of Trillian and Adium (Multi-protocol IM Mac client), adding plugins for status notification from these social networking sites.

    Right now the advantage of using Flock over an AJAX web interface to aggregate our Social Networking contacts would be the “luxury of interaction”. I’m referring to how notification of changes are passed on to the browser (e.g. AJAX site) as well as the operating system (e.g. Flock, Growl).

    This dilemma is being faced by iPhone users (like myself), where running web apps just doesn’t give us the visceral feel of real device specific apps. This is why it’s important that Apple release the iPhone SDK in Feb 2008.

    In summary:
    Web-based app = limited interaction with user
    Desktop-based app = greater interaction with user