With Netscape edging closer to its demise, the Flock browser is hoping its social-networking skills will divert users from migrating to the natural alternative, Firefox.
Flock, which was founded in 2005, allows users to easily monitor social-networking sites by integrating them into the browser. When a user logs into a site such as Facebook, Flock allows the user to see what is happening with their friends in its sidebar, keeping track of status and comments. If, for example, a friend uploads a picture, the user will get an update and be able to drag or share that picture with other friends in other social networks.
"This is not the old model to click on a website and go from site to site in a fragmented experience," Flock chief executive Shawn Hardin said. "We have a core mission to put the user at the centre of their online universe".
Hardin believes Flock's browser experience is the biggest step in browser development since "Netscape took a stream of 0s and 1s and created a visual interface".
The user experience is now changing from information being consumed to being communicated, according to Hardin, who hopes Flock will make an impact as big Netscape: "We aspire to be part of this key inflection, as Netscape was years ago."
Hardin claims that since version 1.0 was released in November, users have been increasing by around 10 to 20 percent per week — with a total of 2.5 million downloads over the last year. Hardin said this compares with 130 million Firefox users and 1.4 billion Internet Explorer users.
Although the demise of Netscape is sad, Hardin said, its spirit lives on: "Netscape is still at the heart of Firefox and Flock." He added that a significant part of his development team created Netscape 8.
Hardin doesn't see Flock as a direct competitor to Firefox because he is only interested in the 100 to 200 million users who are regular social-networking users.
"We would be happy with 25 percent of this market," Hardin said.
However, Hardin may be disappointed, as Mozilla has announced plans for a social-networking add-on for Firefox called The Coop, which would put Flock and Firefox into direct competition.
Flock receives the majority of its revenues from having Yahoo as its default search engine, while Firefox uses Google. "That's how we make money and that's how Firefox makes their money," said Hardin.
"Yahoo is a very big partner," Hardin continued, adding that a potential Microsoft acquisition should not change that. "We have a many-year deal so that, even if Yahoo was acquired, they would still be engaged in search monetisation. In terms of my business, it's not going to make a big difference either way."