Yesterday I got my invite to test out the Flock browser. Flock has some interesting new ideas for a web browser, like automatic sync of all your bookmarks to del.icio.us, automatic RSS feeds discovery and included feed reader, and “top bars”, which are nice ways to interact with web services, like edit your blog or access to flickr. Here are my first impressions.

The good

  • The del.icio.us implementation is very nice and very handy when you switch computers several times a day. Bookmarks can be grouped into “collections”, and you get a drop-down button in the bookmark bar to let you switch from one collection to another. That’s very convenient and allows fast access to all your bookmarks. Also, you can show personalized RSS feeds for any collection you’ve set up, so you can read all the news on any specific topic you like in the same place.
  • The distinction between a website and its feed is erased : for any website that has an RSS feed, you can switch between a feed viewer view (with huge, readable typography, collapsable entries, etc) and the regular web view. This is actually a very natural way to interact with websites, and you realize the distinction between the site and its feed is a technical implementation detail. It also allows you to read entries without all the usual distractions of websites (ads, etc)
  • The overall look and feel is pretty good.
  • They have versions for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. This is just great.

The bad

  • Flock is slow, at least on the iMac G5 I tried it on. You click on something, then you have to wait a while before anything actually happens. This is especially noticeable on bookmarks (I guess because of the synchronization).
  • I had high hopes for the flickr top bar, and I was disappointed. With this feature, you get a bar at the top of the browser that shows you the last pictures uploaded by someone, in a film strip fashion. However, to see pictures from someone, you have to manually type his or her flickr login name… The only flickr login name I know is mine. Constantly monitoring my own flickr pictures is not that interesting (I know when I upload stuff), and if I need to go on the flickr website to find my contact’s login info I might as well see their pictures there. The top bar should at least show me a drop-down with all my contacts that would switch to their photo stream. At best, I would love something like the “most recent pictures by your contacts” page on flickr… I would simplify a lot the new-picture-checking.
  • The blogging top bar did not work with my setup (blogger + FTP server) so I couldn’t check that. It doesn’t look like a killer feature to me (I don’t blog that often) but I would definitely use it (anything to avoid the blogger interface).
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