New Flock marks desire for strong hands

Flock is no longer content to be cool -- it wants to make money. It's time to make money from your friends.

Once any computing niche becomes established, established players seek consolidation.

Squeezing out rivals, creating firm leadership, is how you move from buzz to sales to profit.

Social networking has now reached that stage, and nothing marks it more than Flock 3.0.

Most observers are focused on the switch from Firefox to Chrome as the base browser, including the setting of Google as the default search engine. It's a complete rewrite, and the business plan rewrite is the most important bit.

Flock is no longer content to be cool -- it wants to make money.

There is a sense of urgency to that, and consolidation of the social space will hasten it. The new software is focused entirely on two social networks -- Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn, MySpace, even Google's Buzz are over the side.

These are good choices, but are they the market's final answer? This is where I suspect Flock may have made mistakes.

Because not all markets consolidate as one or two mass market leaders and laggards who eventually fail. What can happen is the creation of solid niches, fortresses that are impregnable for parts of the market.

We saw it in PCs with Apple. We've seen it in cellphones with Blackberry, still the market leader. Apple established itself with artists, the Blackberry with e-mailers, and if that's your thing these are the only choices you look at.

The same may be true in social networking. Twitter is for communication. Facebook is for kids. Linkedin is for professionals. And so on. By limiting its reach to just the two leaders, Flock may be missing much of the market.

This is far from fatal. Other networks and "special editions" are always possible, following suitable negotiations. And it's clear now that if there is profit in it Flock will be happy to negotiate.

Social networking is here to stay. It's time to make money from your friends.

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