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Flock 3 ditches Firefox core for Chrome, adds social networking awesomeness

You may not be familiar with Flock -- even with a user base of 17 million plus, it's still not a Web browser that gets a lot of coverage. That could be about to change, however, with the release of Flock v3 beta.

Why? Because the new version is really good. I was more than a little put off by Flock 2. Apart from a Mozilla-based core which felt sluggish in comparison to other browsers, the user interface was a bit too cluttered for me. In the new v3 beta, Flock has switched powerplants -- moving to Google's Chromium -- and concentrated on a clean, minimal interface.

Using the same code base as Google Chrome obviously brings a big increase in speed, but Flock has built in a number of enhancements that offer some serious advantages over Chrome if you're a serious social networker. Like what, you ask?

For starters, there's the awesome sidebar I've outlined in the header image. Sure, there are plenty of Chrome extensions which add a little drop-down display of your Twitter or Facebook streams, but Chrome doesn't have sidebar support out-of-the-box. Flock coded it from scratch, and it's a fantastic addition.



Flock's sidebar can display activity from the people you follow on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr as well as RSS feeds. It's worth pointing out that Flock also decided to include RSS feed detection out-of-the-box -- something I'm still shocked Google hasn't built in to Chrome yet. You have complete control over what's displayed in the activity bar. Don't want to see Facebook tagging or pokes? Not concerned with comments on your YouTube vids? Uncheck 'em and they're gone.

There's also a search box that displays matches from your activity as you type, and you can click the drop down menu to switch between specific sites or groups (which we'll take a look at next).
Managing all this activity is where Flock 3 really shines. Its groups page allows you organize the people and sites you follow visually, and it's extremely cool. In addition to find-as-you-type search, Flock 3 lets you click and display specific sites. You can also create custom groups to organize your feeds any way you choose. Click a card, drag it to a group, and you're done.

The drag-and-drop goodness doesn't stop with grouping people, however. Your friends probably have multiple accounts, and Flock lets you stack those on a single card if you want. Below, I've got Jay's twitter feed on its own. Vic's, on the other hand, I've combined with his Facebook feed -- making it easy to find all his updates

Flock v3 also makes sharing incredibly easy -- just click the talk balloon next to the Omnibar to post to Twitter (multiple accounts supported) or Facebook -- or both. The page's URL is auto-shortened using bit.ly. You'll also have the option to share while you bookmark, which is a nice touch -- there's a good chance if you like something enough to mark it that you may want to share it with your friends, after all.
You're also given a Flock profile page (which is created when you set up your account). It allows you to share your public activity activity from Facebook and Twitter as well as your favorites and feeds as you add them to the browser. Everything is kept private by default. I know, it's a shock, but some people seem to think that you might want to choose what the world sees -- rather than showing everything by default and letting you go back later to opt out.

One more excellent addition to Flock is this:
Holy crap, a master login. I wish Chrome had this feature, but it doesn't -- go Flock! While the group and favorites buttons still appear, they won't display any of your personal stuff until you sign in.

And, yes, Flock does support Chrome extensions and Incognito (which they've renamed Stealth) mode is available.

With a solid, speedy browser core and some innovative (and seriously cool) features bolted on, the Flock team has really put together an excellent third version. If you enjoy Google Chrome and you're a heavy Twitter or Facebook user, you really should take the new version for a spin.

Tags: browser, chrome, facebook, flock, google, networking, rss, social, twitter

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