When the Flock Web browser was first announced, calling itself the Web 2.0 browser, it got lots of attention and hype, which was no surprise, as this was the high point of the Web 2.0 craze. But when most of us looked at the then-available Developer Preview, we were mainly underwhelmed by a product that was basically Firefox with a few social networking and tagging add-ons that were limited in functionality. (The headline for my review at the time was "Flock Can't Fly Yet.")
Two years later Flock has yet to release a definitive 1.0 version of its browser. But the company is finally close, recently releasing a private beta of Version 1.0. While the Flock browser is still basically just an enhanced version of Firefox, it is definitely much more polished and functional. Rebranded as the Social Web browser rather than the Web 2.0 browser, it makes a bit more sense, as those who are heavy users of social networks such as Facebook will find the most value in Flock.
Like Firefox, Flock runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, and much of the functionality is essentially identical to Firefox's. Basically, Flock is a version of Firefox with specialized extensions and a customized social networking theme.
Much of Flock's core functionality runs in a left-hand sidebar and in a media bar that runs above the main browser screen. In the sidebar, I could log in to Facebook and see information on all my friends, including current status and shared media. If I clicked on their media link, Flock automatically loaded their shared images into the top media bar. I could drag and drop links and content directly onto a friend and access common Facebook features, such as a poke, directly from Flock.
In the media bar, I could access content from Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Photobucket and Truveo. Flock includes a clipboard feature that lets users drag and drop links and content to save or to use in blog posts. It also includes integration with tagging sites such as Ma.gnolia and Del.icio.us.
One of Flock's nicer features is the integrated search bar. Like the one in Firefox, it will suggest search terms as you type, but it enhances this by looking in your Favorites and recently visited Web sites.
As one would expect from a Web 2.0 browser, Flock includes good RSS feed reading and management tools. It also includes a built-in blog editor, but I found this very basic and lacking, especially compared with the modern AJAX-enabled interfaces that most blog platforms now sport.
In general, many of Flock's capabilities can be obtained by installing Firefox extensions. But, based on this beta, it looks like Flock has done a good job of adding value over this option by providing good integration throughout all these services. While everyone may not want to join this particular flock, it looks as if Flock will actually fly for those who like its social networking capabilities.