A while ago I started using Flock. Flock is a Mozilla-based web browser that bills itself as the Social Browser. Their goal was to integrate tools for interacting with a variety of social websites into the browser. It seemed like an interesting idea, so I decided to give it a try.
I was really impressed on first use. It could connect to my blog, my online bookmarks, my YouTube account – you name it. It also seemed to be more resource heavy. It is a bit slow to start up, because of all the connections it is making, but in the end it was using less RAM than my Firefox sessions and seemed snappy enough. I was doing a lot of Flickr picture uploading and use, so I really liked the Flickr integration and the media bar.
As I dug into it, I became more disillusioned. The project bills itself as being compatible with certain services, but I challenge this characterization. What Flickr really is, is compatible with logins and some XMLRPC calls, and a least-common-denominator set of features. For instance:
- Blogging: There is a whole list of sites it claims to be compatible with. However, it doesn’t actually implement some of the best features of a lot of these sites. Tags are Literati tags, whether the site has tagging or not. LiveJournal features are basically completely ignored, even though Flock says they are compatible. I am not saying that Flock is obligated to implement these specific features, but if they are not going to bother I think that claiming compatibility is disingenuous. Firefox with ScribeFire does it better.
- Favorites: Online and offline favorites, working together. That’s great. However, it doesn’t keep a tag list to choose from, leaving you open to one-letter variations and misspellings to mess up your organization. Searching for a bookmark with multiple tags results in a repetitive nightmare mess. And where the heck is Google Bookmarks? I mean, really. Again, Firefox and your favorite online bookmark site’s official add-on does a better job.
- Search: Their auto suggestions leave a lot to be desired. Also, if I am typing in a search box and press Enter, there is no reason for it to choose to open something from the history that my mouse pointer happens to be hovering over. That’s what the mouse buttons are for.
- Themes: Huge amount of work needed here. They claim to be at a 1.0.x version, but their browser cannot handle it if I choose a dark theme for my desktop. Something is wrong with this picture.
Don’t get me wrong. There are aspects of Flock that really knock it out of the park.
- The Media Bar: The media bar is pretty much awesome. It makes it simple to upload media to YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket, and a few others. You can drag and drop files on it. You can also drag thumbnails from it to your blog client or the….
- Web Clipboard: If I knew a good Web Clipboard plugin for FireFox I would probably just dump Flock. I use this feature a lot. Highlight some text, drag it to the clipboard. Like an image? Drag or right-click. Want to save that video? Clipboard. The drag them all right back to your blog client, email, or word processor. It’s pretty handy.
In the final analysis, I feel like Flock is a great idea with an incomplete execution. I really want this browser to thrive, so I will be keeping up with it and trying new versions as they emerge. For now, though, I am tired of needing to install redundant Firefox extensions to get the usefulness I want out of Flock. I will be switching back to FF for the duration, particularly since FF3 seems so promising in terms of reducing the memory leaks..
Good luck, Flocksters!