Flock Raises New Venture Round, Launches Public Beta

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It’s been nearly eight months since Silicon Valley based Flock released a developer version of its Firefox based browser. This evening they are releasing their first public beta version, available for Windows, Mac and Linux machines, at Flock.com. I’ve been running the most recent developer release on my Mac for the last few weeks and it is now my browser of choice.

I interviewed the Flock founders – Bart Decrem, Geoffrey Arone and Anthony Young – as well as investor Jason Pressman from Shasta Ventures, last night. The podcast of the discussion is up on TalkCrunch, here.

Flock is a Mozilla based browser (see also Songbird, another application built on the Mozilla code base). They’ve built additional features to the core Firefox code base that make the browsing experience more seamless, including photo integration with Flickr or photobucket, social bookmarking integration with Del.icio.us or Shadows, a blogging tool, enhanced search and a RSS reader.

Photos

Photos stored in either Flickr or Photobucket are integrated directly into the browser experience, scrolled horizontally just above the browser window. Photos can be uploaded to these accounts by dragging them into the browser. Or, photos can be added to any web page that accepts html (a comment area on a blog, for example) by dragging the photo directly into the web page. This is the single most compelling reason (for me) that I’ve switched to using Flock – to bring my Flickr photos to the desktop.

Photobucket and Flickr are currently supported. More photo services will be integrated over time (I’ve suggested that CNET’s AllYouCanUpload be supported as well, for example).

Bookmarking

Flock also has close integration with Del.icio.us and Shadows social bookmarking accounts. Clicking on the star button next to the address bar bookmarks the current page, and metadata such as tags can also be added. More bookmarking sites will be supported over time.

Blogging, Search, RSS

Flock has an integrated blogging tool, with integrated tagging, that works with most major blogging platforms. Users can switch between preview and html views. Search via the top right drop down (same location as Firefox) is set to Yahoo as a default, and an be changed to Google, Technorati, Wink, etc. (no support for MSN or Live.com search though). Beginning to type in a search query brings up a pop up box that shows recent bookmarked sites, visited sites and search results from the default search engine.

The integrated RSS reader is excellent (image above to left). Any visited web page with a feed shows the orange feed icon in the address bar. Clicking on it shows a preview of the feed. Another click and you are subscribed. Within the reader feeds can be read individually, or in “river of news” fashion.

Flock will make the majority of their revenue from the search bar, just as Firefox does. They have a revenue share agreement with search providers for searches completed through the browser. The low end estimates I’ve heard suggest that Firefox generates at least $2-3 per year per user. Flock is also going to charge service providers to integrate directly into the browser, and plans on launching co-branded browsers with partners to increase distribution. Given their close relationship with Yahoo (search, del.icio.us and flickr integration), I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Yahoo version of Flock distributed sometime this year.

Flock has also raised a new round of financing led by Shasta Ventures, rumored to be in the $10 million range. Previous investors included Bessemer Venture Partners and Catamount Ventures.

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