Flock is an interesting attempt at integrating social media directly to the browser. Flickr fans will probably love it
Media Bar works very well
Good integration of social software sites
Few problems with sites
RSS reader just like Google Reader
Not all Firefox extensions will work
Blogging tool is fairly limited
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One of these is Flock, a browser available on Mac and Windows, which uses the same Gecko rendering engine as Firefox but with a different interface.
Flock describes itself as "the social media web browser", and its makers have concentrated on creating a browser that integrates with social software sites such as Flickr and del.icio.us.
Their thinking is that rather than reinvent the wheel, why not use the sites that allow access to third-party software to add features? So, for example, instead of having its own system for sharing bookmarks, Flock uses link-sharing and tagging site del.icio.us to support this.
There are three main areas of integration: media management, bookmark management and blogging, and each supports several different services.
Media management supports Flickr, Photobucket, Trueveo and YouTube, while bookmarks can be added to del.icio.us or Magnolia.
For blog posting, a wide variety of services and platforms are supported, including WordPress, Blogger and Typepad. There's also a web clippings feature, letting you clip bits of text or images from web pages for later use.
Key to the way Flock implements support for social software sites is the Media Bar. Click on the appropriate icon and a "stream" bar appears, showing you the latest images and videos posted in services you subscribe to.
With Flickr, for example, you can select the latest images from your contacts, pick out a contact's photo stream or view any public one.
Click on any image or video in the Media Bar and Flock gives you the option to email a link to the original, or to post it to your blog using the built-in blog-posting tool. This makes Flock a very interesting tool for blogging media, but it does have a couple of drawbacks.
If you blog an image from the Media Bar, it includes a link to the original. However, if you do the same by clicking on an image in the main window, it doesn't include the link back - you have to insert it manually.
The blogging tool itself is fairly bare-bones, although it includes all the basic formatting tools. For example, although it allows you to use the categories for posts which you've set up on your blog, it doesn't allow you to add to them, which means you have to go back to the blog's administration page if you post about something entirely new.
Flock is well-designed, includes more features than any of the "big three" browsers, and thanks to its Firefox heritage is unlikely to present any unique problems when rendering sites.
However, only the Media Browser really offers anything more than can be done using Firefox with the addition of a few extensions. The blogging tool isn't as fully featured as other free options, and the feed reader is no better than Google Reader.
But the Media Browser really is something else, and is the nicest integration of social media we've yet seen. If you spend a lot of time using Flickr or YouTube, you'll appreciate the way it enables you to quickly and easily view streams of pictures or videos, share them via email or blog them.
Ultimately, Flock is free: it won't hurt to try it, and if you spend a lot of time using social media, it could be the browser you've been waiting for.
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