Flock Switches From Mozilla To Chromium For New Browser, But Is That Enough?

Flock, the social Web browser company, has released a new and completely different version of its desktop browser client after nearly a year of silence. The news comes about a week after Apple released Safari 5 and around the same time Opera launched a beta version of its upcoming Opera 10.60 browser.

In a perhaps surprising twist, Flock is moving away from Mozilla technology after 6 years and making the switch to Chromium. Google will also become the default search engine.

Note: it’s only available for Windows today – a Mac version will be available later this summer.

As a former user and fan, I’ve been pondering doing a post on Flock to question its whole reason for being but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. This release gives me the perfect excuse to ask the big question: is Flock fast becoming immensely irrelevant?

When Flock got started (and funded), it was easy to defend the need for a Web browser that incorporated tons of functionalities that catered to a new breed of online services and applications (remember Web 2.0?) and their power users. Personally, I loved it, despite the annoying persistent bugs and crash issues that would eventually make me switch to Mozilla Firefox (now replaced with Google Chrome).

Back then, the Web was just the Web, and users of social networks weren’t as plentiful and demanding as they are today. The Web has now turned into the Social, Realtime Web, and that is a trend that will likely continue to manifest in the coming years.

So now that there’s this proliferation in potent social Web services, applications and increasingly, browser extensions, that enable users to communicate and share with other people using whatever browser they prefer, is there really a need for a product like Flock?

Don’t think they’re not asking themselves that very question. Read Flock VP of Engineering Clayton Stark’s blog post on the switch to Chromium, and you’ll notice they aren’t blind for the issues at hand. He writes (among many other things):

After all, the social Web isn’t bleeding edge any longer. It’s pretty much everyone.

And he’s right. And I fear that what makes Flock still unique today (integrated social search, the ability to create Groups that let you ‘channel surf’ the Web, extensive sharing options, and so on) may not be enough to make its userbase grow much larger than it already is.

I will download and install the new version, and I’ll try it, and I’ll do a review if time permits (check CNET if you want one now). But even if I fall completely in love with it, the $28.3 million question still remains: is Flock increasingly becoming a solution in search of a problem?

(Thanks to Atul for the heads up)