The Coding Monkey

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Meet the Flockers

I have a pretty general rule about my computer. I don't install two programs that both do the same thing on my machine unless I have a very good reason to. I find one program that does what I want it to do, and I learn how to use that program very well. Once I have decided on the program for my particular purpose, it is generally very difficult to get me to switch away. You have to make a very good case for it. As you can probably guess from my blog, I'm a Microsoft junkie. I've grown up in my programming with Microsoft technologies, and have gotten very good at using them, so it should come as no surprise then that I use Internet Explorer. I used to use Netscape way back when during the old browser wars, but they eventually lost my allegiance when they tried to shove too much into the browser that I didn't use or want. Around that time Internet Explorer had matured enough to win my favor, and it's had it ever since.

When Firefox came out, I will admit I briefly toyed with it. I emphasize briefly. Having sold myself long ago to the Microsoft devil, the "Use Firefox because Microsoft is evil" argument never persuaded me. I don't use one software package just to spite the other company. If a package does what I want it to do, and does it well, then I use it. Believe it or not, the "Firefox is more secure" argument never did much for me either. My contention has always been, and I think recent security reports verify the belief, that Firefox is just as insecure as Internet Explorer. The reason it appeared not to be was because it wasn't popular enough to be a target. As soon as enough people started using it, hackers decided it was worth their time. So for a short time it may have been artificially more secure, but that is quickly changing. In the end I looked at Firefox and saw a less mature piece of software that did the same things that Internet Explorer does. So why should I switch?

Then came Flock. For those not familiar, Flock is a new browser that is based off the Mozilla source branch (like Firefox). The reason it intrigued me when I first saw it talked about on Slashdot was because I saw that it wasn't just another browser that does the same things all browsers have always done. For some time now, I've been for managing my Favorites. Sure Firefox and Internet Explorer can make use of them, but it's not elegant. I've always felt like my favorites were glued onto the side of my browser, instead of built in. Flock uses specifically for managing Favorites, and makes it an integrated piece of the program. Now that is cool.

Obviously I also blog... you are reading this after all aren't you? Sure there are plenty of third party applications that I could use to publish to my blog, but all of them are once again either separate applications, or crappy popup windows that I get in an Internet Explorer or Firefox toolbar. If I want to blog about something I read somewhere, it takes all sorts of extra steps to go from that blog, to my own. Once again, it always felt like my blogging experience was duct taped to the side of my browser. Flock goes to the trouble of integrating those features as first class parts of the browser. Have a Flickr photo album? You can browse through your album (or any other), post pictures to your album, and post photos to your blog all in one step, integrated right in the browser.

Some have suggested that Flock is an answer to a question that nobody asked. Perhaps for many this is true. But at least for me, it is the answer to a question I didn't know I could ask, but wish I had. If you don't use Flickr,, or don't blog, then it's true that there is no reason for you to switch to Flock. But if you do use any or all of them, then Flock will offer you an experience that is very worthwhile. Now then, with all that said, I'm not making the full switch yet. I still primarily use Internet Explorer. But Flock is installed, and I use it now and then to see how things work, and I'm definitely following the builds as they are posted. It's not ready for prime time yet, but of all the browsers I've tried so far, this is the one that has the best chance of replacing Internet Explorer for me.


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