Flock enhances social browser's links to Twitter, Facebook

Flock 2.5 allows people to use Facebook Chat and other services from directly within browsing windows

Flock has released a new version of its social browser that improves its links to social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Flock 2.5 enhances the ties that the Flock browser has to both Facebook and Twitter so people can engage in many of the same activities they would on either of those sites from directly within a tab they're browsing, said Shawn Hardin, Flock's CEO.

Launched in late 2005, Flock is a browser based on the same open-source code base as Mozilla Firefox that explicitly optimizes the browser to allow people to engage in Web-based social activities.

The browser is meant to enhance the user experience by incorporating some of the Web's most social features, such as file sharing, RSS feeds, social networking and blogging, directly into the browsing experience, Hardin said.

Facebook and the micro-blogging site Twitter are two of the most widely used social applications on the Web, so Flock has significantly increased the capabilities for people to use these applications while browsing in Flock, he said.

People have already had the ability to access these sites through the presence of mini-application links to them as well as 20 other Web applications and services in a Flock sidebar.

In Flock 2.5, Facebook Chat is now available from any browser tab or window even if a person is not on the Facebook page, he said. Currently, if a person navigates away from Facebook, they can't use chat.

"We've moved it into the chrome of the browser so it works across all of your open tabs," Hardin said.

"It's extremely easy for you to grab any piece of content, share links, tell people what you're interested in, directly in IM in Facebook Chat."

The new version also increases the activities people can participate in with Twitter via the Twitter mini-application on the Flock sidebar.

For example, a person can grab a piece of content or link, drag it directly into Twitter and have it post on that site immediately, Hardin said.

Sheri McLeish, an analyst with Forrester, said that while not many people are using Flock now, it's an interesting strategy for Flock to differentiate its browser by giving people easier access to specific content on the Web.

"It's a way to help filter [information]," she said.

"The Web is getting more and more crowded. It's increasingly difficult for consumers or information workers to be able to get the answers they need or create a world for themselves to interact with their friends or accomplish work for their job."

While Flock is mainly a consumer offering now, McLeish said at some point she could see it, or something like it, extended for use to help enterprise users stay connected.

"There's a big influence about what happens on the consumer side that will trickle into the business world," she said, using the example of how social networks are being deployed in companies to help employees communicate.

"I can envision that Flock could somehow have a similar ability to be redeployed in an enterprise to deal with their own social networks."

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