I first gave Flock a try in the middle of last year. The mixture of a Firefox base, and out of the box support for a number of the social networking sites that I use regularly seemed quite attractive. Unfortunately although I liked what I saw, it didn’t really feel ready for the big time back then. It crashed quite a few times, and although the integration with sites like Flickr was fairly good, it wasn’t enough to get me to switch.
Over the intervening months I’ve continued to keep my copy updated, but in general Firefox has been my browser of choice, however on hearing about the release of version 1.0, and also reading some of the positive reaction, for example here and here, the time seemed right to give it another go, and I’ve been running it as my main browser for the past couple of days.
So far the impression has been pretty good. Whilst it is true that I could get a lot of the functionality into Firefox through extensions, here everything just works out of the box. There is a bit of initial setup, pointing the browser at all your various accounts, but in general that is just a question of going to the relevant web page and logging on. There is a nice sidebar that keeps track of when contacts on sites like Flickr upload pictures, and then if I want to see what has been added I can just click the media button and their photo stream appears across the top of the window. In amongst all of that, it’s just really stable, not a hiccup so far.
So what are the downsides? The biggest is if you’re making significant use of a site that’s not really supported. In my case that is Google Reader that I use for all my feed reading as it maintains a consistent state across any of the methods by which I read the feeds, be that iPod Touch, mobile phone, work PC or Mac at home. Whilst Flock apparently has a pretty good feed reader, I’m not using it – the feed functionality has been set to subscribe to feeds in Google Reader instead. To get me using the built in feed reader, it will really need to be able to operate as a front end to Google Reader to ensure that everything is kept in sync.
The other significant part of the application I haven’t used as yet is the blog editor, primarily because I’m quite happy using Ecto instead. Although I know I’m not using all of the features of that client, I’m perfectly happy using it to type blog postings, although I guess I may give the Flock client a go at some point in the future.
So should you be giving Flock a go? Certainly if you spend a lot of time on the social networking sites it is worth a look. Also if you’ve been having problems with Firefox you might have better luck with it as although it is based on Firefox code, it has diverged from that codebase in a couple of areas, so you may find you feel more comfortable with Flock rather than Firefox. I’ve currently got it set as my default browser, so we’ll see how things go with it over the next few days. If you fancy giving it a go, the install can be downloaded from www.flock.com.