Latest beta of self-proclaimed social browser packs a punch, including all the niceties of Firefox 3 with a social angle.
Sequels aren't always as good as what comes before them (see Indiana Jones 2) but when it comes to technology and software, newer usually means better.
Flock, the self-proclaimed social browser, is catching up with the times this week with a new version for brave Windows and Mac beta testers that employs technology from the upcoming Firefox 3. Dubbed version 2.0, the new Flock is largely a behind-the-scenes operation, including such FF3 niceties as the controversial "awesome bar", improved render speeds, and the new bookmarking system, along with in-browser security notifications--which should keep the phishing sites at bay.
That's not to say Flock 2 is without its new polishes. For one, the media bar that sits atop your browser window and lets you browse and snag any media that's on the page has been given a slight visual update. It's still a film roll of sorts with a slew of clickable thumbnails. What's new is that you can now save and bookmark media streams like you would Web pages. These items are saved alongside your bookmarks and can be called up, whether you're on that site or not.
Flock devs have also redesigned the people toolbar to scale for more services. One of my initial criticisms with it, and on other similar services like Yoono, is that it worked fine with five or six sites, but moving up into something like FriendFeed, which pulls in more than 40 services, people would just run out of room. Flock's solution is to compartmentalize each feed into three different sections, which--once you get the hang of it--works like a multi-pane e-mail client.
Another noticeable improvement is the built-in feed reader. If you're using that instead of something like Google Reader or a mail program, you previously had to re-start the browser to get the latest feeds. The new version includes a refresh button and adds time stamps so you can see how old each story is. I hope that in future iterations feeds will automatically refresh like they do on other readers, but the change is a huge step up from the old version.
We'll be updating the Newbie's guide when Flock 2.0 overtakes the current version (1.2), which should happen in the coming weeks.