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Flock flies social browser on Google's Chrome

FOSTER CITY, Calif. -- Flock CEO Shawn Hardin is sure about one thing when it comes to sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. "The social network tsunami is not going away," Hardin told me in a briefing here that included a demo of the company's new social browser. Flock created the "social browser" category when it released the first Flock browser built on Mozilla's Firefox back in 2005.

Wednesday, the company released a redesigned version of Flock developed for Google's Chromium open source platform. Flock adds social media navigation to Google's Chrome browser, which has been lauded for its speedy performance.

Flock users will also be able to tap the growing catalog of Chrome extensions that number in the thousands. The redesign offers more screen real estate in a right hand column to monitor and interact with social media content. For example, you can retweet, post to Facebook or share content with your friends on social media sites without leaving the Web page you're on.

"There's a fundamental disconnect between the social space and the browser that's a key opportunity for us," said Hardin. Flock now also integrates Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) search by default, in a switch from Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) which users can still choose as an option.

The basic idea behind Flock's social browser is that in addition to surfing the Web, users can keep all their social media assets in one place, including videos, pictures, status updates and tweets. Users can display multiple Twitter accounts along with Facebook, Flickr and YouTube as well as any RSS or ATOM feeds. Social media content and contacts can also be grouped so, for example, you can have a specific group for your extended family or specific set of friends, or a particular interest like sports cars or smartphones.

**Coming soon: integration with LinkedIn, Mac version**

You can also search your friends, feeds and favorite Web sites on specific topics using the Flock Explore search bar. Later this summer Flock plans to offer integration with LinkedIn which should be of interest to business and professional users. A Macintosh version is also in development for release later this summer.

Hardin concedes Flock is not for everyone --- the company is targeting active social media users - but notes it's getting harder to find anyone not on at least one of the popular social networks. "We were founded when the social Web was very leading edge, now there are close to a billions folks that are active on social networks," he said.

Flock has attracted over 17 million downloads to date which Hardin said is a pretty impressive figure given the growth was generated almost entirely by word of mouth. With the new release "we're focused on getting to 100 million downloads," he said.

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