It's been a while since wrote about Flock, the ambitious social web browser which first launched back in late 2005 amid a snowball of publicity, riding the web 2.0 hype.
A quick recap: Flock is built on top of Mozilla's code base, and aims to embrace the 'social web' by including functionality such as a blog editor, drag 'n' drop access to photos on Flickr (and later Photobucket), integration with social bookmarking service, Delicious, as well as a very elegant RSS reader.
Then after months of stagnation, and with a new CEO on-board, Flock released a major update (see my version 0.9 review) that added better discovery of services, an improved media bar, and a 'start page' for tracking new content across supported services. While none of these new features had the 'wow' factor in themselves, I commended the Flock team on the tiny details designed to make powerful features more easily accessed, as well as broaden the browser’s appeal.
Ultimately, however, I was disappointed:
... in terms of interacting directly with various social web services and tracking social media, I was hoping for more. Where’s support for Twitter or Facebook alerts for example? I can’t imagine the engineering resources needed would be too much to support these two sites, or any of the social web services that have APIs.
Next week Flock will release version 1.1 to the public, adding Gmail and Yahoo Mail integration (yawn), along with Picasa support (yawn). However, with last year's 1.0 release -- overlooked here on this blog (blush) -- Flock has added the Facebook and Twitter-integration that I was asking for.
Does it deliver? In a word, yes.
The Twitter sidebar in Flock, activated automatically once you sign-in to Twitter's website, is as good as any of the standalone desktop Twitter clients that I've used. You can update your status, post a link, and of course track updates from "friends" and even private message them all from within the sidebar.
Facebook integration works (and looks) pretty much the same, except you're presented with more options, reflecting Facebook's additional functionality: update status, poke, message etc. Another really neat touch is the ability to browse any of your friends' publicly displayed photos on Facebook. Just click on the 'browse media' button associated with any of your friends tracked in the Facebook Flock sidebar, and their Facebook photo stream appears above in the Flock media bar (with the option to subscribe permanently). I found this to be a much better way of discovering new photos on Facebook than actually browsing the site itself.
In fact, combine Flock's Facebook integration with the iPhone version of Facebook's website (which I access regularly using my iPod Touch), and I'll be visiting the main Facebook site (and viewing ads) a lot less often.
Now that's a thought.
Also see: Q&A: Flock CEO Shawn Hardin