Early this week, San Francisco-based Flock showed off a Web browser designed specifically for users of social networking sites, and the company claims the software is the first of its kind.
The browser simplifies the Web surfing experience for social network users by building support for photo and video sharing and blogging applications directly into the software, according to Flock. Facebook and Flickr users have the option of pulling their existing contacts, or "friends," into Flock for easy access at any time. (Hopefully, it doesn't automatically e-mail everyone in your address book and invite them to join in the fun, like another service I'm aware of.) Flock features a dashboard that lets users see information on those friends, as well. For instance, surfers can receive notifications when contacts update profiles or add new media, and they can communicate with each other through the browser.
"Flock's rich features eliminate multiple steps, remove complexity, and deliver much greater enjoyment for users in their daily Web interactions," said Flock CEO Shawn Hardin in a press release.
The browser also includes a "Media MiniBar" that displays scrolling photos or video streams from sites with media feeds, like YouTube, Photobucket, Piczo and Truveo. And it can even help Web surfers find new media and people by notifying users when it finds something that might be of interest.
A beta version if currently available for free on Flock.com, and the company plans to release the full version in the coming months.
The popularity of sites like Facebook and Flickr means that at least a few of your staffers or coworkers are likely to install Flock's Social Web Browser on their corporate machines.
Are there any business benefits to such a consumer-oriented browser? Or is Flock just another example of software that's better suited for use outside company walls, but that users will install anyway, because they can? (Unless, of course, you've blocked them from downloading such applications.)
A number of my colleagues at CXO Media, publisher of CIO magazine, use Facebook for "work purposes," i.e., keeping in touch with former coworkers or sharing work-related media. In fact, CIO.com's editorial director--read: My Boss--sent me a Facebook invitation the other day, so I promptly signed up.
I don't know if I'll become a loyal Flock user, but I downloaded it and I'll certainly check it out. Our editors and writers post much of our content ourselves and that often means passing around images or snippets of HTML code. And I can see the benefit of a browser that could notify me when an image I'm waiting for is ready, as well as allow me to grab that image from a coworker without the series of e-mails that usually accompanies such an exchange.
But then again, I'm just a lowly user...
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