Flock, the new Web browser which aggregates services no other browser has yet been able to provide, has attracted widespread user attention with its first beta version after only six weeks in release.
But it remains to be seen whether its ad-driven business model will be able to sustain it over time.
Co-founder and CEO Bart Decrem told Ziff Davis Internet Wednesday that the fledgling company has hired more staff to handle demand for the browser, plus service the needs of a quickly growing support community—despite the fact that the initial release was intended for evaluation by Web developers only.
Flock, which started with about a dozen full-time staff and three part-timers, is "closing in on about 20 full-timers," Decrem said, including employees in Europe and Japan.
Flock 0.49 has been downloaded "multiple hundreds of thousands of times," he said, adding that the company really doesnt have an accurate download counter yet.
Flock, literally housed in a garage just off the Stanford University campus in Northern California, is a Mozilla Firefox-based, freely downloadable open-source browser to help get users around the Internet quickly while integrating a number of Web services and presenting them in intuitive ways.
Users can post a Weblog entry, build and share photo collections and share favorite Web sites (bookmarks are for books, Flock says) with friends all in one place—within the browser itself.
Analysts estimate there are 10 million to 15 million sophisticated Internet users writing Internet journals, and Flock sees this as its prime target market.
"Weve gotten off to an encouraging start," Decrem said, "and that really excites us. Our next step is to focus on listening to what weve heard our users tell us. And what theyre telling us is basically two things: No. 1, Flock is an intriguing product, and No. 2, it still needs work.
"We agree totally with both assertions. And were working hard every day on No. 2 to get all the bugs out and make it optimal," Decrem added.
Decrem, a veteran of the short-lived Eazel user interface company, which designed a desktop for Linux during its 1999-2001 time frame, said the Flock user e-mail lists have been very busy since the launch of the developer preview on Oct. 21 and that staff is working hard on answering questions from all users.
"They key for us is to continue to build community in this product. And were building it. Were working now on completing about 25 (language) translations. And the community has already made 80 to 100 new extensions available.