- Cost: Free
- Requires: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux.
- Synopsis: Flock isn’t just a web browser: It’s an all-in-one social media buffet. This can be very good or very bad, depending on your purposes.
The Flock browser was created from the ground up to be a social media browser rather than simply a web browser. It’s based on Firefox, but saying that understates the level of work which went to putting this together. Simply put, the browser is aimed at connecting users to the social side of the web.
It should come as no surprise then that this browser includes a built-in blogging tool. Considering I was looking for a way to save myself time, it was only logical that this be reviewed. After all, if you could connect to all your social media, blog, and browse the web all from the same application, simultaneously, would you do it? This is what Flock essentially promises. And the fact is, it delivers. Sort of.
To start blogging, you only have to hit the blogging icon on the screen, or go to Tools > Blog Editor. This opens the writing interface in a separate window.
It looks simple because it is simple: You can add a new post, open a saved (but not yet uploaded) post, save the current draft, set up your blogs, and copy stuff from the web clipboard. This is by far the most interesting feature.
Because of Flock’s inherent media-savvy, users can grab clips from the web or Flocks various media bars, store them in the Web Clipboard, then use these clips and quotes in posts created using the blog editor. For those who frequently put up videos, quotes, images, or links, this makes it almost the perfect tool. Of course, for those whose attention spans may endanger their productivity because of all the media, this is wonderfully bad news.
The interface is a standard WYSIWYG with the ability to view the source code. Unfortunately, the code looks fairly sloppy, which makes it difficult who prefer to edit our own tags, especially after uploading an article, which once uploaded can’t be edited using the Blog Editor. It can, however, be replaced by using the “Replace Existing Post” option (found in the upload screen).
Uploading media is, unfortunately, also a bit limited. Dragging and dropping an image into a post will begin the image upload process, which opens up a screen that allows you to rotate and crop the image. Unfortunately, you can’t upload it to your server; it can only be uploaded to the media services which you’ve logged into with Flock (which integrates with them upon first logging in), like MySpace, Facebook, and Picasa. Great when your images are of friends, family, and trips, not so great when your images are of blogging software and icons. For those doing a lot of personal blogging, this is perfect. Professional bloggers? Not as much.
By the way, remember what I said about the screen simply opening so you can start writing? A question quickly on my mind was “Wait, is this going to the right blog?” Since there’s no indication on the actual writing interface where this is going, I was afraid to hit the “Publish” button. It wasn’t until I did that I found out a post’s destination isn’t determined until after you start the process of sending it. That’s also when you select the categories and whether this is a new post or replacing an existing post. No tags, no scheduling, no “Publish as Draft” option. Good for personal blogging, but not for more professional pursuits.
Flock is not just a browser: It’s a media experience. For bloggers who can learn to harness this tool, whose blogging requirements aren’t too steep (those who write a bit, upload some pictures, etc) this is a phenomenal piece of software, well worth a look. While the integration into the browser makes this a wonderful tool for publishing a personal blog, this is not a tool you’d want to use if you’re looking to do more than entertain yourself and some friends. So for anyone looking for a more professional package, this might not be the tool for you.
Of course, this is by no means a vote against Flock. It’s a phenomenal web browser that’s perfect for anyone looking to be connected instead of just a spectator. Best of all, if the default blog editor isn’t good enough, remember that the ScribeFire plugin can be used in Flock. This makes for one potentially horribly messy interface, but one heck of a powerful web browsing experience. In fact, because many of the features that would be added on in Firefox are part of the base package, for bloggers who can stand the interface this may just be the perfect browser.
On a side note, my biggest issue with Flock is that it does a lot of things just well enough so that if you don’t have a better experience they’ll be fine. (For example, the Twitter functionality, which doesn’t display the entirely of the message. If you’ve never used software like Thwirl then this will be fine. If you have, then you realize this is totally unacceptable.) Yes, I know that I’m asking for the world with Flock, so it’s an unfair standard. But considering that’s what they claim to offer, is it really too much to ask?
Finally, the conclusion.
Of course, if you just want to go ahead and skip to the conclusion, by all means do so.