Do you have an online social life? If you’re on Twitter or Facebook or other social sites you probably get there a variety of ways. A browser. A standalone app for each. An app that combines a bunch of online social sites.
Now there’s a browser for Mac users that’s made specifically to enhance your online social life. Speedy. Stable. Secure. Social. One app. One click.
Divorce Is A Terrible Thing
A few years ago, Flock was born. It was a social browser based on Mozilla’s Firefox which tried to integrate a bunch of social media components. It was free. It was messy. It wasn’t very popular.
This year, Flock divorced Firefox. Now it’s married to Google’s Chrome browser.
The new Flock 3 still integrates a number of social web sites into browser windows and handy, tool-like sidebars. There’s support for Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, to mention a few.
Flock on Chrome is easier to use, fast, stable, secure, slimmed down, and with fewer features. So, why bother with yet another free browser on your Mac? Because you love being a social animal and it’s nice to socialize from one single app, rather than many apps.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Still, I don’t fully appreciate the business model behind a free browser with a few social media features. The old Flock didn’t get used much, despite being useful. What’s the new Flock got that makes it truly different?
Flock’s New Look
First, Flock looks somewhat like Google’s Chrome, but without that geeky, sterile, utilitarian face. As in Chrome, Flock’s tabs are on top, but look like real browser tabs instead of engineer-designed tabs from early first century Egypt.
Second, Flock has a grated pastel background and appropriately placed icons for adding Favorites, or Talking about a page on select social sites, a Tools button to customize and control Flock, and the Sidebar viewer button.
Starting up Flock gets you this panel:
I imported my settings from Safari. Bookmarks appeared as expected. Preferences, as they are in Chrome, are simple and straightforward with only a few options.
Clicking the Customize and Control button on Flock yields a hefty set of new preferences, similar to those in Chrome.
If you’re looking for lots of cool things to customize and control you’ll be disappointed. Flock is, after all, Chrome with a less ugly face.
The real action begins when you attempt to login to a social site such as Facebook or Twitter or others. Flock integrates some social media sites into a handy toolbar, accessed by toggle Toolbar button in the upper right corner.
This integrated approach makes Flock a handy way to access Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube and RSS feeds, within a fast, stable, secure browser, but with handy extras.
What I like best about Flock’s approach to integration is built-in support for organizing social contacts into groups. Flock also does RSS feeds which can be added to groups. The URL bar’s auto complete feature pulls up information from various social networks as you enter keywords.
What you see is an instant list of search options for Favorites, History, Google Suggestions, and What Your Friends Are Saying.
Chrome comes with its own built-in Flash player but Flock does not, relying instead on the Flash plug-in that Safari and Firefox use. Chrome’s Bookmark Manager is also missing.
Flock isn’t for everyone, of course. I don’t know what the business model is for a free social browser, but if you use Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, or YouTube, the integration is useful, and that makes it the best new Mac browser. In the end, it’s an elegant, fast, stable, secure web browser. Prettier and more useful than Chrome at the same price.