Flock!

The much hyped Flock browser launched yesterday. Well, sorta. They released a very early beta. From this article:

Flock is a new browser, built on top of firefox. It is a functional browser with excellent features (including firefox features like tabbed browsing, etc.). What really makes is stand out are two additional features they’ve added to build social networking directly into the browsing experience: social bookmarking and a wysiwyg blog writing tool.

Flock has integrated del.icio.us-type features right into the browser. When you are on a page you would like to bookmark, simply press a “+” button on the top left of the toolbar and the page is automatically included in your bookmark area (called your “breadcrumbs”). You can also tag bookmarks, of course.

Additional features include your “watchlist” (people who’s bookmarks you would like to monitor), and “groups” (basically, defined groups of flockers linking to this category).

Breadcrumbs, Watchlists and Groups all have RSS feeds (of course).

Many people in the blogosphere are railing on the concept as unimaginative, or not all that impressive. The bulk of the complaints seem to be focused around the fact that there’s nothing terribly revolutionary in any of the components. After all, the argument goes, you could get most of the Flock functionality in a series of Firefox extensions. These arguments are being made by people who frequent the blogosphere, either as bloggers and/or blog readers.

But I think they are missing the fundamental component of what makes Flock so kick ass – it passes the "My Mom" test with flying colors. Back in my days as a full-time Web developer, I used to be responsible for architecture, design/code implementation, and usability testing, my team had one overriding goal – make the site pass the "My Mom" test. Basically, can the site be easily understood by my mom (a persona of a newbie user)?

Today’s social tech and web tools don’t pass the "My Mom" test… my mom has no idea what these things are, much less how to use them. She’s barely able (or perhaps interested) in downloading and installing Firefox, much less downloading, installing, learning and using a series of dissociated extensions. Provide her a tool like Flock and she’ll be using them without even knowing she’s using them. One install, and bam!… she’s part of Web 2.0.

For a real example of this, look no further than the adoption curve of RSS. As bloggers/blog readers, most of us love and are addicted to RSS. We can’t imagine a world without it, and can’t imagine our daily life without it. But look the ~10% adoption curve across all internet users. What’s amazing to us is simply non-existant to most Internet users.

While we might all think that AOL users are fools for using AOL services, there’s a reason so many newbies flock…no pun intended… to the AOL services – one install, instant access to everything. They make it simple and easy. We seasoned pros don’t mind having a bunch of dissociated applications to perform various tasks… desktop blogging app, multiple browsers, multiple extensions, RSS reader, multiple web based services, etc. But for those that just want to get online, do things, and get off, they’re simply not going to learn or ever even discover all those seperate pieces.

Every new tech invention needs it’s must have tool to take it from geeks to mainstream. Web 2.0 is coming to a mom near you soon – thanks in no small part to Flock.

Kudos to the Flock team for their efforts. If you’re interested in learning more about the Flock biz model, you can find more here.

UPDATE: I just came across an interesting quote from the Flock CEO – looks like I was thinking on the same page they are….

Why not an extension?
We too love Firefox.  We spent several months investigating (and writing code) how to deliver what we want to do in the form of a Firefox extension.  In the end, we concluded that we needed to release our code in the form of a full browser.  We want to be able to offer our users a complete end-to-end user experience, including a single browser download, an update service, technical support…. the works.  Further, we don’t want to break anyone’s Firefox experience, or have our browser break, due to updates either way that have not been fully tested propagated.  In the short term, that means that fewer people will play with our stuff, but over the long term we believe it’s the right way to go for us.