Tag Archives | Mozilla

Flock: Goodbye Mozilla, Hello Chrome?

Flock LogoTechCrunch’s Michael Arrington (who’s back from his month-long blogging hiatus) is reporting that one of my favorite products is going to undergo a radical change. Flock, the browser with built-in support for Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, will supposedly dump Mozilla, the platform that’s most famously used by Firefox, and build a new version of Flock that uses Google’s Chrome as its engine.

Arrington says that the Flock folks feel like they don’t get enough love from the Mozilla team, and while I don’t know if his scoop is the real deal and have no insider info on the back story here, I do recall once asking the Mozilla team a question that involved Flock, and feeling the tension in the room ratchet up a notch. It’s hard, of course, for Mozilla to both keep busy spreading Firefox and also help a Firefox rival like Flock be successful. But Flock might face the same challenges if it ends up working with Google. We’ll see.

A Chrome-based Flock could potentially have some upsides–the current version, like Firefox, is slow to load (on my Mac, anyhow) and sometimes feels piggy when it comes to resources. Chrome’s emphasis on efficiency could result in a meaner, leaner Flock. (At the moment, Chrome is Windows-only while Flock also speaks OS X and Linux, but Chrome’s support for those two OSes will likely be ready long before a Chromed Flock is complete.)

But if Flock does go the Chrome route, it has one major implication for current users: Right now, one nice thing about Flock is that it runs nearly all Firefox extensions just fine. There are surely Flock fans who, if forced to choose between sticking with Flock and keeping their favorite extensions, would keep the extensions and switch to Firefox. Given that Flock remains a cult favorite rather than the mass-market hit its creators would like it to be, it would be a shame if the lack of extensions bummed out too many of its existing users.

I’ve asked Flock if it has any comment on all this, and will report back…

Update! Here’s a statement from Flock CEO Shawn Hardin:

Flock hasn’t ceased development efforts on the Mozilla platform.  Our upcoming release of Flock 2.1 is built on the Mozilla platform. Having said that, the browser space is heating up, and we’ve seen a variety of new technologies emerge over the last several months that are appealing.

We always have and will continue to make architectural decisions that balance what’s best for our users and what’s best for Flock as a business.  This has resulted in a healthy, growing user base and business for Flock, and we expect this to continue in 2009. In fact, with almost seven million downloads almost entirely from word of mouth, Flock enjoys a highly satisfied user base (consistently over 92% customer satisfaction, with very strong net promoter scores, and an average of four hours of usage per day).

With a continuing focus on user-centered browser innovation, our team is in active research and development on a range of exciting new enhancements to Flock.   It is still far too early to comment on anything specific, but we are very excited about this design phase.

That’s not an acknowledgment that Flock is switching platforms, but it also falls very far short of the commitment to Mozilla you’d think Flock might express if TechCrunch’s report was hooey. It’s not startling that there’s going to be a Flock 2.1, or that it’ll be built on the existing Mozilla underpinnings–if Flock is indeed moving to Chrome, it’s going to take awhile, so an interim Mozilla-based update makes sense.


5Words for February 18th, 2009


Late today–I’ve been airborne:

Facebook reverts to old terms.

Intel and Nvidia’s legal tussle.

Folks are dropping cable, apparently.

Tumblr shuts down unkind blogs.

Verizon preps for 4G wireless.

Mozilla: iPhone jailbreaking is OK

Microsoft kills subscription software offering

Text in school, get arrested.

Time to stop using CAPTCHA?

Western Digital’s remotely-accessible drive.

April 5th arrival for Nintendo DSi.

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Firefox Goes Private, Kills Fancy Tab Switching

firefoxlock1The Mozilla folks have released beta 2 of Firefox 3.1, the next version of the world’s favorite open-source Web browser. It includes a bunch of technical refinements and fixes, and one significant new feature: private browsing. And it removes one feature from beta 1 which I kinda liked.

Mozilla’s implementation of Private browsing (which Apple’s Safari already has and which is also in Google’s Chrome beta and Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 8) couldn’t be much more straightforward. It’s a new option in the Tools menu:


Choose it, and you get this page:


Like the text above says, Private Browsing eliminates all the traces you’d otherwise leave of your Web wanderings: They won’t show up in Firefox’s history; searches and downloads aren’t kept in their respective histories; and Web form data, cookies, and temporary Internet files aren’t preserved. (When you leave Private Browsing mode, Firefox returns to normal operation and restores whatever tabs were open when you entered it.)

The browser’s dialog for clearing your history has undergone some related changes: You can now restrict the data you clear to stuff collected in the past hour, two hours, four hours, or day. It’s effectively a form of retroactive private browsing:


So what’s Private Browsing good for? Mozilla thoughtfully suggests you use it when doing online holiday shopping for family members. It’s also handy whenever you use someone else’s computer and log into e-mail or other services such as Facebook, since it prevents the browser from relogging your buddy into your accounts later on. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use it whenever you’re at a public computer that’s running Firefox 3.1.

But I refuse to demean Private Browsing by calling it “porn mode.”

As for the feature which was new in beta 1 and is now gone in beta 2, it’s the flashy pop-up thumbnails that let you shuffle through open tabs in much the same way that both Windows and OS X let you tab through apps.


Mozilla says it removed it “based on feedback from Beta 1 users.” (<Ctrl><Tab> still lets you move from tab to tab, but without a preview.) I’m mourning the new approach to tab-switching’s loss, and I’m not sure what the beta testers disliked about it. Or, for that matter, whether its absence is permanent, or temporary while Mozilla tweaks it.

Anyhow, it’s still exciting to see Firefox 3.1 near completion. As I mentioned in this recap of all the Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari betas, 2009 is going to be a great year for browser fans.


One Possible Future for the Browser

Where is the Web going? Jesse James Garrett–the influential founder of Web design firm Adaptive Path–is in as good a position as anyone to provide smart answers to that question. And he’s just delivered some in the form of a next-generation browser interface called Aurora.

Don’t get too excited–Aurora is pretty much just a pie-in-the-sky idea at the moment, which Garrett and Adaptive Path have come up with in collaboration with Mozilla Labs, the research arm of the organization behind Firefox. It’s not the next version of Firefox, or anything else that’s going to arrive any time soon in any form. As Mike Arrington explains over at TechCrunch, Adaptive Path is releasing Aurora to “inspire and engage” the community of Web developers. Maybe folks will find it compelling enough to turn Aurora, or parts of it, into reality. Or maybe not.

In any event, it’s fun to look at what Aurora involves in its current theoretical state. Adaptive Path is releasing a series of videos about the interface, starting with one that went live tonight. Here’s that video–like most videos produced by technology companies to show how something that doesn’t exist yet might work in the real world, it has a slightly cheesy, Epcot Centerish vibe. But it does a reasonably good job of conveying Aurora’s basics…

A few quick thoughts:

One of the features described I liked most is one of the simplest. All the Aurora browser’s tools disappear until you need them, opening up more room for the Web page you’re on. Why can’t Firefox and IE and Safari do this…like now? In fact, why can’t all applications work this way? (I know that many of ’em have a full-screen mode, but it’s always optional, not the default way of doing things.)

Aurora looks like an OS/application interface, not a mere browser one. It takes over the screen, includes data-wrangling features, and even lets the user create charts–as if it could be, at least in part, a replacement for Firefox, Windows, and Excel. Which kind of makes sense, since so much of what operating systems and applications have traditionally done for us is migrating into the browser and onto the Internet.

Parts of Aurora look like a certain OS I know. Namely Apple’s Leopard–you could tell me that some of the functionality in the video is the next generation of the OS X Dock and Exposé and I’d believe you. Again, it’s interesting to see a future browser that would take as many cues from operating systems as from current browsers, which have changed remarkably little in basic concepts since Netscape Navigator 1.0.

Parts of Aurora look confusing. Or maybe it’s just the video that’s confusing.  “The placement of objects in the spatial view left to right and top to bottom is largely automatic,” says the video’s narration. “The browser analyzes the content of everything that flows through it, noting semantic similarities between objects and placing them near one another…strong associations between objects are noted as clusters.” I only sort of understand what it’s talking about. Aurora would only be a successful, of course, if users found it completely intuitive and didn’t need to think about this stuff. (Real people never use words like “semantic” when discussing the data in their lives; Web geeks can’t discuss data without doing so.)

I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to whether Aurora will ever amount to anything, and based on the first video, at least, I think it’s most interesting as a conversation starter. The Adaptive Path site has more info on the project, and will link to the rest of the Aurora videos as they’re released.