Flock review

It must be a major browser – it has its own domain name. Visit flock.com and you can download what’s billed as “the social web browser”.

What that means in practice is you get the body of Firefox clothed in Flock-produced sidebars, top-bars and widgets aimed at aggregating social media from more or less every popular site and service. That includes Facebook and its derivatives, Flickr and its derivatives, WordPress and its derivatives and Twitter. And its derivatives.

There’s one very apparent thing about Flock after the first few minutes of use: it has a healthy, useful and attractively integrated set of add-ons and utilities. It’s also apparent that you’ll find yourself drowning in them unless you’re the kind of person who lives and breathes status updates, RSS feeds, blogs, media streams and everything Web 2.0.

Flock BBC homepage without feeds

Two features impressed us most. The first is the blog-editor utility – a separate pop-up mini-app rather than something integrated into a web page, so you can use it offline.

Hook it up to your WordPress (or Blogger, or Blogsome, or LiveJournal, or TypePad, or Xanga) blog by entering the blog URL and your credentials, and you can fire off a post in double-quick time.

The editor is simple but sturdy, and the same goes for the photo uploader: click the button in the toolbar and a sparse but slickly functional window appears, letting you drag in photos in a batch and upload them to Facebook, PhotoBucket, Picasa or TinyPic in a trice. It’s all pleasingly simple and you can crop, tag and add a description to each shot before you upload. For undemanding photo-journal streams it’s all you’ll need.

Beyond those, if you’re a Flickrophile you might find the Media Bar handy. Click its icon and it appears as a horizontal strip above the main browser view showing (by default) the Flickr feed of your choice. We couldn’t see the point, but perhaps that just goes to show that even we’re not sufficiently cutting-edge web wanderers for Flock. To complete the social networking package, various vertical sidebars hook into the likes of your Facebook account and will show you continually updated status feeds.

As to the non-social-media bits, well, it’s Firefox plain and simple, but an older 3.x version with no private-browsing mode and no ability to drag a tab out into a new window. Flock makes no secret of its origins, with a whole page on its relationship with the Mozilla Foundation. The window furniture has a slightly fussy, slightly old-style look but it’s not unattractive.

Flock’s engine romps (nearly) home to a 72/100 score in the Acid3 standards-compliance test, which isn’t too shabby when compared to others in the EU browser ballot that score 13. We certainly didn’t have any compatibility problems, and a browser so resolutely focussed on Web 2.0 is unlikely to give you any problems with Ajax-heavy sites.

Flock will appeal massively to a certain type of web user, and that user is probably a fair bit under 40 years old. If you have feeds and media and blogs and general web-newness coming out of your ears, Flock can act as a very capable way to get to it centrally, albeit in a way that’s a little prone to running away with itself.

For the rest of the world, Firefox and Chrome remain a better choice.

Details

Software subcategory Web browser

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? yes
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

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