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Flocking together

sbisson got to this before I did - the first public beta of the Flock browser has now been released. It's a Firefox variant that integrates del.icio.us social bookmarks and blogging more tightly into the browser, but I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by it. It is slick, even for a beta, but much of the functionality has already been present in the form of Firefox extensions:

  • The Shelf is equivalent to the Scrapbook extension
  • There are at least two extensions which integrate del.icio.us into Firefox's bookmarks
  • There are already blogging extensions, albeit not one which is properly cross-service (WordPress vs MT vs LJ)

I'm a little worried that this is opening the gates to a series of forks of the Firefox development; I'd have been happier if Flock were presented as a family of tightly integrated extensions (in a similar vein to the All-In-One extension, perhaps). As it is, I have no guarantee that developments on the main Firefox trunk will make it into Flock with any timeliness (if ever). For cosmetic enhancements this may not be an issue, but for security fixes this could be critical. There are also no guarantees of support in Flock for major new areas of functionality such as SVG or Canvas, even if those get into Firefox.

Fortunately, the Flock developers are concerned that existing Firefox extensions should work with Flock, which is some consolation.

(this post would have been brought to you by Flock, had the damned thing been able to post to LiveJournal)

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I'm not particularly worried about Firefox forks - if anything, forking is good, as it encourages developers to be innovative. The Mozilla trunk has forked many times already (after all, Firefox itself began as a fork that became dominant).

Look at the OS X variant Camino, which is definitely inspiring the Firefox folk onward.

Granted, but I still don't see anything in Flock that could not have been implemented as extensions. The marketing of Flock as a standalone browser has more to do with providing an all-in-one browser experience than it does with technical necessity.

Forking is a risky activity. I'm a long-time Emacs user, and remember painfully the difficulties between GNU Emacs and XEmacs, particularly that of maintaining a configuration of working packages for either. When your (emacs-based) mailreader was developed primarily on XEmacs but your newsreader was developed primarily on GNU Emacs, it's a devil to get them both playing together nicely.

Either Flock is a deep fork, in which case we can look forward to subtle API changes that cause instabilities, or a shallow fork, in which case extensions would have been a more politically expedient move.

But don't get me wrong. I think that Flock has some good features, and is generally pretty slick. I agree that this sort of innovation is helpful, and will hopefully spur the implementation of similar functionality into the main Mozilla/Firefox development.

Saw the anouncement about that and was going to have a look at it. Of course I really need the version that does LJ and FOAF. *sigh* Guess I might have to actually do that bit myself after all.



I *knew* something was missing - it's FOAF!

Bloody Web 2.0 bubblorati - they're *still* ignoring the Semantic Web, even though it's far less plausible than any of their own harebrained schemes.

Is it okay if I just nod and smile at this post because I think I only understood one word in ten.

On a completely different note, hope your back is better and I am getting guinea pigs!! Yay!

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