Just recently I’ve been giving Flock a chance to impress me, following yet another investigation into the multitude of web browsers available. I was initially very impressed by Flock, but of course time tells a clearer story than first impressions. So, here is my report on the good, the bad and the ugly of Flock.
Let’s start with the good, as that’s what prompted me to use it in the first place. The most stunning part of Flock as far as I’m concerned is the interface, which is original and different, especially in the placement of the bookmark button incorporated into the address bar. The look and feel of Flock is clean and pleasing to use and is certainly the biggest factor in my user experience. Flock is also built on top of Firefox, and as such uses the Gecko rendering engine to ensure predictable and accurate display of web sites, and many of the add-ons available for Firefox can also be used with Flock. It’s also fairly responsive, and while it does take some time to load up initially it seems to handle web pages quickly and efficiently in normal operation. Flock works well with Gmail and Google Documents too, which is more than can be said for Safari or Opera (at the moment).
Then there’s the ‘social browsing’ aspects of the browser, which the Flock community is eager to stress. Built into the browser is a photo bar that integrates seamlessly with Flickr and Photobucket, allowing you to view photostreams and upload photos without having to go to the site first, which is clever and useful. Similarly there are blogging tools included so that you can write posts offline and upload them to your blog with just a few clicks, and works with most blogging systems out there.
However, there are some serious issues still to be overcome in Flock. First of all, it’s built on Firefox 1.5, and as such an older version of Gecko, which means the advances Firefox 2 introduced have not been echoed in Flock. Most of the time this isn’t really important, but I have noticed that with some forums I have been to I can go to the log in page, log in, and when I’m taken back to the home page it’s still telling me I’m not logged in – an error I’ve not encountered on any other browser.
The blogging tools are also not quite sufficient for my needs, which is a shame. While it would be a useful inclusion if all you ever did was write short bits of text, there is no functionality to upload images or files, and the nice <more> tag I use in WordPress just doesn’t work when uploading from the browser. I also tried a third-party blog tool called ScribeFire, but that didn’t really provide any real edge either, and formatted my blog posts hideously so that I had to go in and manually edit the post in WordPress, which is surely what the tool is supposed to avoid…
An important factor to bear in mind is the reason for using Flock in the first place. As I said in my previous post, I use Firefox for web design and will happily continue to do so, but I wanted something quick and lightweight to use for day-to-day stuff, just something I could load up quickly and perform a search or two. While the feel of Flock certainly makes it a fun personal browser, the time it takes to load up just isn’t acceptable.
So, where does that leave me? Well, I’ve found a theme for Firefox called FireFlock that is fairly close to the default Flock theme, so I’ve now got the stability and reliability of Firefox combined with the attractive and eye-catching interface of Flock. I’ll continue to use the web-based WordPress system for blogging, and for now I’ll see if Firefox alone can satisfy both my business and personal web browsing needs.