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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Flock Web Browser: Could it Supplant Firefox as Browser of Choice for Cool Kids?

Believe it or not, Firefox 1.0 has been around for less than a year. In that short time, it has gained at least 10% of the browser marketshare and spurred Microsoft to finally bring back Internet Explorer from its innovation stasis.

This fall, the plot will thicken even more with the beta launch of a new kind of browser called Flock. Although it's built on top of Firefox, it's reputed to be more than just Firefox with new buttons and a snazzier skin.

Instead, the company behind Flock is billing it as a "social browser" that integrates directly with next-generation services like web feeds, blogging tools, social bookmarks and photo sharing services. These next-gen features are part of what many observers call "Web 2.0", presumably named after John Batelle's groundbreaking technology conference of the same name, whose goal is to bring together the players who are building this new future.

Flock is getting rave reviews already, and I simply cannot wait to give it a whirl. (If any of you Flockers are reading this, howsabout hooking me up with a copy?)

If Flock has its way, we might not even think of the browser as a browser any more. It would simply be the central application through which we find information and communicate with others using a loose federation of complementary tools and services. These days, it's pretty hard to define what is a web site, web service and web application. They're coming together in logical new ways, which is what web 2.0 is all about.

You get the sense that we are on the heels of a new phase of web innovation. You can feel it every time Google introduces a rule-changing feature like maps, or a startup like Flock comes out of nowhere to catch titans like Microsoft unaware (and make no mistake -- web 2.0 is a serious threat to MS's desktop monopoly).

Thanks to the early pioneers who have built the proofs of concept, software developers are launching new services at a dizzying pace. Perhaps we will at last realize the full internet experience promised by open standards and cross-platform tools, with the browser in the middle of it all; a vision that Microsoft has helped foil due to its anti-competitive, self-serving tactics.

Microsoft isn't sitting on its hind end any more. When IE 7.0 is released next year, it will ship with embedded RSS web feed capabilities and probably a few other new gadgets. I predict RSS will be embraced adopted by the masses in short order, and that's when we will close the door on the old web 1.0 world.

Just don't call it Browser Wars II. No more war analogies, please!

Later on this week, I'll take a look at the underlying technology that is helping make the web 2.0 vision a reality.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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