Flock is a flop

I installed Flock, the “social” browser yesterday and set it as my default web application. Less than 24 hours later I’ve reverted back to a pimped-up Safari.

Flock is a nice idea, nicely done, but somewhat lacking. The built-in blog editor is nice, but primitive in its capabilities. Far more useful is the shelf feature and the ability to drag and drop HTML snippets and images. These are valuable but not the main purpose of a web browser.

On the Mac OS, WebKit browsers are, inevitably, faster than Gecko ones. That’s not a simple trade-off as Gecko is arguably the better rendering engine. I keep Camino as a backup browser to Safari precisely for those web pages that don’t work correctly in WebKit. Unfortunately Flock suffers doubly in the performance stakes. Not only is the Gecko engine slower but so is the UI – and that’s where the difference is really felt.

Flock is basically a bunch of bundled themes and extensions over Firefox with its XUL interface. XUL is all very well but its not the native API for Mac OS, or indeed any other platform. So it’s a hodgepodge that kind of looks okay but is a bit sluggish and quirky to boot. I can tolerate the non-standard widgets. But what I can’t stand is the slow response to key presses and mouse-clicks. I end up penta-clicking in the search bar in an effort to “select all”. (It’s only a triple-click in just about any other Windows or Mac app.)

I’ve not tried Firefox on a Mac but on Windows the UI is just about bearable. With Flock on Mac OS I found it just too irritating to use. It’s not that the UI is badly designed: it’s quite smart actually. But all that XUL results in an unpolished finish that wouldn’t be out of place on a Linux desktop. If I was happy with that I wouldn’t be using Mac OS.

5 Responses to “Flock is a flop”

  • I found Flock interesting, stuck with it for about 4 months. But the issues you mentioned were eventually it’s undoing. Even moreso when Firefox 2 was released, while their builds continued to use the older versions of Firfox.

    The blogging tool was useless, for some reason it was downgraded when Flock entered public beta (I had used an alpha that was better featured).

    I did however like the news aggregator, though it’s no replacement for Bloglines. The flickr integration was also very well done, being able to easily upload photos from your computer, or even drag a photo from the web into your photo bar, and have it uploaded. The shelf was genius.

    The other aspect you missed out was del.icio.us integration, which worked a charm. When you tag a page it gets added to your delicious links, and the star button changes to orange, so you always know if the current page is in your favourites. Alas most of this functionality can be added to Firefox using the official delicious extension.

  • I have never used del.icio.us or any other form of social bookmarking. What exactly is the point?

    Even if I did want to go down that route, there’s a Safari plugin.

  • I use del.icio.us for two purposes. One, it allows me to have my bookmarks with me wherever I go. Secondly, it’s great for showing others what I’ve found. The “Around the Web” section in the sidebar of my blog runs off my delicious, displaying any links I tag with “links” within my del.icio.us.

    Very useful.

  • I agree with all the points your raised. The star button, shelf and flickr support was cool but the sluggishness of it and the constant crashes just put me off. Why half release something in that state. You’ll just lose people who will never come back.

    One of the head guys at Flock, Chris Messina also sounded like he had a bit of an attitude when he was interviewed by the team at Inside the net (twit.tv). I thought to myself for someone with such a shakey product he could have a little more humility.

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