Flock 1.0 Beta Released: Surprisingly Very Good

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Flock 1.0 beta has been released for public download and is available here (at the time of writing it’s not shown on the front page).

The new version of Flock, the first full release was first demonstrated at the TechCrunch 40 conference in September. The new version builds on previous Flock versions by offering a variety of social networking tie-ins.

I’ve been hard on Flock in the past, believing it to be nothing more than Firefox with a couple of fancy plugins. In some respects that was true (it’s based on Firefox code) but the new Flock offers something completely unique that for me at least makes it surprisingly very good.

Facebook Comes To The Sidebar

The big change to Flock is the introduction of sidebar social networking integration. Flock now comes standard with support for Facebook, Flickr (more so than previously), Twitter and YouTube.

Facebook addicts will love the new Flock. Sidebar Facebook access is not dissimilar to the Facebook iPhone interface, but with better options including the ability to upload photos directly to Facebook. Some options do take you directly to Facebook itself, but it’s still very handy having them at your command in an easy to use sidebar.

The Twitter app does a reasonable job and is not unlike the TwitBin Firebox plugin we have previously review, but like the Facebook app it comes with a better feature set, including action buttons allowing for direct messaging, profiles and nudging.

My only gripe with the Twitter client is that it doesn’t update as frequently as Twitterrific and there was no obvious way of changing the update frequency that I could find.

Account support is also available for Photobucket, Piczo, Del.icio.us and Magnolia.
flock1.jpg

Media Bar

The media bar is not new to Flock, but where as the service was previously focused on Flickr, Facebook support is now integrated, providing drag and drop uploads. Another feature Facebook addicts will love.

Web Clipboard

Flock now comes with what they call a “web clipboard” that allows users to drag and drop anything they see into it via the sidebar, including urls, text and images. The idea is that they can then be used when needed on other sites by drag and drop again, or via image upload as required. We’ve seen Firefox plugins before that do a similar job, but the way this is built into Flock does make it a more appealing offering. It also helps that it works well.

Blogging client

The blogging client has long been one of Flocks selling points but I’m afraid that it was really my only major disappointment with the 1.0 release. It’s a solid blog client (always has been) in doing the basics, but it fails miserably with image management. Flock doesn’t support the uploading of images to a blog and provides users with only two alternatives: upload the image to Facebook or Flickr for displaying in the post, or worst of all display the picture sourced from another web site; basically stealing someone else’s bandwidth. It really isn’t that hard to build in image uploading to WordPress or similar blog platforms, here’s hoping it’s something that Flock might address in future releases

Other features

Flock offers a browser based RSS reader which does a decent enough job for those who prefer their feeds served locally as opposed to a service like Google Reader. The media bar has expanded from simply being a photo management tool to a browsing tool that includes YouTube videos. In the case of YouTube, user accounts of videos you view are added to the YouTube sidebar. I’m not sure exactly what the appeal of this feature is, but some will like it.

Overall

Flock launched 2 years ago tomorrow so they’ve been around long enough to get their product right. It’s been a difficult two years for the startup as they’ve had to battle against a marketplace that wasn’t that receptive to new browsers. The new Flock isn’t for everyone, but it will win new fans.

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