Flock, the "social browser" built on the Mozilla platform, will release version 0.9 tomorrow morning. I've been testing the new release for the past couple of days and had a nice chat with CEO Shawn Hardin this morning to talk about what's new in this release and what's on the roadmap as the company approaches a 1.0 release this fall. Flock, Hardin told me, "is all about people, media, and search". Indeed. The browser incorporates service discoverability, blogging integration, a variety of search engines and capabilities, a completely clever media bar that displays photos and video from Flickr, PhotoBucket, YouTube, and MySpace, and an integrated RSS reader.
And that's just the top-level feature list.
I asked Hardin what he was proudest of in this release and he pointed to the usability and discoverabilty features as the work he's particularly pleased with. He should be. Despite the long list of features in the browser, the UI is clean and easy to intuit with one-click access to a number of powerful features. Hardin defined discoverability as the ability to easily find features in the context of what the user is currently doing and Flock makes liberal use of information bars to assist you in taking advantage of the browser's capabilities. Load a page with RSS feeds, for example, and a bar appears suggesting that you can easily subscribe to the content offered from that page. Don't need the prompts? They're easily hidden.
In addition to the Media Bar, my two favorite new features are MyWorld, a built-in portal page that aggregates content from your favorite pages, services and feeds into a single, easily navigated page and the Web Clipboard which allows you to drag and drop text and images from pages for later use. I asked Hardin about future plans for the Web Clipboard and while he was wisely cautious about getting into too much detail,he did confirm that organizing and sharing capabilities will be coming in a future release.
I'm running Flock on both the MacBook and the Lenovo X61 Tablet PC (Vista Ultimate) and it runs like a champ on both platforms. The user experience is very consistent on both machines and I look forward to the ability to synchronize my settings between the two – a feature Hardin confirmed was on the roadmap.
He also told me there will be a release later this summer that will deliver a number of features that weren't quite ready for this release prior to the official 1.0 release this fall. It's an ambitious schedule but one that lines up well with the vision Hardin shared with me at the end of our chat.
"We're focused on being a real execution company," he told me. With this release and the the roadmap he outlined, I find myself agreeing that Flock has a very clear vision for where they're headed.