Flock to The Social User’s Browser

Does the world need another browser, even when Microsoft’s grip on the sector has weakened?

Yes, says Flock, whose eponymous browser has been called “Firefox with some extensions” by critics.

First introduced last October, the Flock browser is built on the Firefox code base.

Flock CEO and co-founder Bart Decrem was the head of marketing for Firefox before starting the company.

“We are aiming this browser at the folks for whom engaging socially online is the most important thing they do,” Decrem told internetnews.com.

“We don’t mean the small group of Web 2.0 insiders, we mean the tens of millions of people that you find on LiveJournal, MySpace, YouTube and Facebook.”

Flock is specifically designed for the syndication and social aspects of the Web, such as photo sharing, tagging bookmarks, integration with del.icio.us, Flickr, Yahoo’s photo sharing service, MySpace, YouTube and other sites.

Blog posts can be created and posted from within the browser, while a sidebar called Shelf acts as a repository for blogging content, such as photos and text. Photos can be uploaded to a blog by simple drag and drop, rather than dealing with cumbersome FTP transfers.

This means building a lot into the browser that might otherwise be an external application or done on a Web page.

Flock uses Yahoo for searches, but results are displayed in the search window as the user types more letters, similar to the Google Toolbar. The search function also searches your own bookmarks and history along with Yahoo.

Flock 0.7 also has a new RSS aggregator that allows for previewing any feed before adding it, and viewing all RSS stories by feed, category or all categories.

When a user visits a site with an RSS feed, a button on the browser lights up, and with a click, that feed is added.

The big change with 0.7 is in how Flock handles photos, which are often the life-blood of blogs but a lot harder to upload. Beta 1 of Flock adds the ability to drag a photo to an upload icon and the browser does the rest.

On any Web page, when you hover the mouse pointer over a photo, if it has a photo stream with more pictures, they appear as thumbnails in a top bar. Clicking on the thumbnail downloads the larger picture.

News of the browser didn’t go over very well with some of the Slashdot crowd, but some of its readers have a positive view of Flock.

“While just about everything here can be done via [FireFox] and a ton of extensions, this is the ‘out of the box’ solution for the non-geek crowd (read: HUGE crowd) to get into blogging and other ‘social’ things on the web, or just do it much, much easier,” wrote one wag.

A second beta is planned for September, which will add more open APIs for search, blogging and photo services. The final product is due by the end of the year.

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