For want of better things to do I guess, I decided today I would download and check out Flock Browser – The Social Web Browser for my browsing and my blogging. Download (11 MB) and installation were easy and quick. Right away after installation I set Flock as my default browser to check if it had any issues with Google Desktop since I use that as the main source of searching on Google and not any toolbar (hitting control twice and typing in your query is so easy). Flock offers to import bookmarks from Firefox and Internet Explorer, but not surprisingly no Opera. I should mention that Flock is based on Mozilla so Firefox users will be at home right away though the GUI and interface of Flock leaves Firefox way behind.
System resources usage is fair, RAM was going at about 140,000, and CPU jacked up to the 90s only when opening a new tab or a new window, but otherwise was in single digits most of the time. Coming to user experience, it was responsive enough but not blazingly fast like Opera, which is my default browser. I did open up to 10 tabs at the same time and except for the CPU surge when the tab was opened, system resource usage was in the same range. One thing though is that Flock takes a while in opening a new tab and even has a “Flock – The Social Web Browser” message scroll across the screen (as if we did not know). This adds to the opening time and gets to be a nag after a while.
Now coming to the USP of Flock, its integration of Social Networking in the browser. Flock offers Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Twitter, Picasa, Blogger, Del.icio.us, Xanga among the Social Networks, email providers, Online Photo Hosting, etc. that I use. There are others too like YouTube, Photobucket, Piczo, Blogsome, LiveJournal, Typepad, WordPress.com, and even self hosted blogging. I did go with www.nela.in for the self hosted blog option, but sadly from the sidebar I was not able to access www.nela.in even though it was visible and enabled in the sidebar. The problem was that while all the other options and links I added to the sidebar had a hyperlink on the title, which when clicked would open the website/webpage in the main tab, but www.nela.in or Rajiv’s Blog! as it was named by me did not have a hyperlink to it so it could not be opened in a webpage. This is silly to say the least. The idea is for my own hosted blog Rajiv’s Blog! to be easily accessible to me from the sidebar, but because Flock did not consider it important enough to provide a hyperlink to it or some engineer goofed up, it is not easily accessible to me from the sidebar. I have yet to check the forums though about a solution to this.
Another problem or at least not a workable/usable option was with Twitter. All Flock does with Twitter is put Twitter on the sidebar with the options of Forget Account which will remove Twitter from the sidebar and Log In/Log Out which will needless to say Log you in or out of Twitter. There is no option of sending Tweets or updating your Twitter status from the sidebar. The only options are the aforementioned ones or to click on the Twitter hyperlink in the sidebar and the Twitter homepage gets loaded for you to Twitter and Tweet on the Twitter homepage. Thanks, but no thanks, I will stick with my Google Talk, which works just perfectly for all of my Twittering and Tweeting. So in other words all the sidebar in Flock achieves is place a shortcut to Twitter, but then any favorites sidebar in any browser will do the same so what’s sociable about what Flock does? You tell me!
In case you are wondering if there is anything I liked or could state positively about Flock during its initial run (I plan to use Flock for a week with serious browsing and blogging to put it through its paces) don’t worry there is. Flock comes with the integrated option to post to a blog (at least the ones supported by Flock) and my own hosted blog at Rajiv’s Blog! is supported. Right click on any page in Flock and you will have the option “Blog This” and on selecting it the inbuilt Blog Editor in Flock opens with the link of the page you selected from, and you can basically go ahead and type in matter or to put it more aptly you can go ahead and blog and publish to your hosted blog or any of the supported blogs from within this inbuilt Blog Editor in Flock. I will definitely give this Blog Editor in Flock a few good points since I really do believe nothing else can be worse than the default WYSIWYG Editor in WordPress and you can read my thoughts on the WYSIWYG Editor in WordPress here.
Another option that I am trying out while finishing on this blog is the built-in photo uploader in Flock with which you can upload photos to Photobucket, Picasa, Piczo and Flickr. I am trying to upload 204 photos worth 292 MB and let me state at this point itself I will be pleased with Flock if it achieves to upload them all without a hitch. Till now I have come across only Picasa, which can upload even more data to Picasa Web Albums. All other so called uploaders from Flickr, Snapfish, etc. have failed miserably all the times I have tried them. The Flock Photo Uploader is taking CPU usage in the 90s while it’s importing the photos for upload, hopefully it should come down during the uploading process, but come to think of it Picasa does work invisibly in the background. Must admit Google makes products that work very well. Case in point is Gmail which will beat every other email provider in terms of ease of usability. I had to leave the photo uploader running overnight for it to upload all the photos, but in the morning it did greet me with an all done message. I shall be sticking with Picasa for bulk uploads since Picasa does uploading a lot faster.
Update – After using Flock for 4 days now, I can say it’s a good browser. It has not crashed on me once, it’s reasonably fast and does all the usual bells and whistles that any major browser does like store passwords, integrate RSS, offer plugins, etc. The only thing is for a browser that’s touted with the USP of being a Social Web Browser all it does is offer a favorites tab that shows up all the links you have selected in your Social Web Browsing. This feature is available in all browsers and I find Opera’s Panels options more workable even though I don’t use it since I prefer a clean and uncluttered browser with lots of viewing space and on this front Opera is just unbeatable. Coming to the Social Networking links that Flock offers, well you can go ahead and use Opera’s Panels for the same or place shortcuts to your favorite sites on Opera’s Speed Dial to achieve the same result. I believe Flock would be a much better browser if it offered interaction with websites and Social Networking sites (case in point Twitter) right from within the sidebar instead of making them a favorites link, which have to be opened in a tab to be used. That pretty much defeats the purpose of a Social Web Browser. Another area of development for Flock, much needed plugins to cater to every user and use which as of this moment is possible only with Firefox. If Flock should work and improve in these areas I am sure it will achieve a lot more penetration and build on its user base. As of this moment I don’t find anything worthwhile or of lasting importance to make me continue on with Flock. I shall be using its inbuilt blogging editor for a while though, but more importantly will be moving back to Opera as my default browser.