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Deal Radar 2008: Flock

Posted on Thursday, Aug 14th 2008

Flock is an open source web browser that has social networking features built into its interface. Founded by Bart Decrem, Geoffrey Arone, and Anthony Young in 2005, Flock is headquartered in Redwood City, California and has an office in Victoria, British Columbia.

Decrem left Flock in late 2006 and Arone became an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Bessemer Venture Partners in early 2007 but continues to work closely with the company.

Flock 1.0 had a beta release in October 2007 and quickly followed with the production version in November 2007. In June 2008, Flock 2 had a beta release and was made available for download.

The browser, available as a free download, supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux platforms. Built on the Mozilla codebase, Flock is called a ‘social browser’ because it integrates social networking and media sites. When the user logs into a supported social network, Flock automatically activates various services to complete the browsing experience. Some of the features that Flock offers are: friend update aggregators, feed readers, photo integration using Flickr or Photobucket, personalized home pages, a media bar for quick searching, and previews of online videos and photos.

In July 2008, Flock announced the release of its ‘Gloss Edition’, which is dedicated to entertainment and fashion. With content from more than 35 fashion and entertainment partners, including InStyle.com, Glam.com, Ecorazzi.com, ThisNext.com, and PopSugar, the Gloss Edition seeks to deliver the latest in fashion interviews, red carpet events, style trends and other news. The browser also has PopSugar and InStyle versions for fans of these sites.

In May 2008, Flock was ranked sixth in PC World’s 100 Best Products of 2008. The company also received the distinction of ‘Newsmaker of the Year’ and ‘Online Strategy of the Year’ at the Vancouver Island Advanced Technology Centre (VIATeC) awards in May. In 2008, the company also won the SXSW Community Award and the Webby Award for social networking. The browser was named ‘Best Application’ at the Open Web Awards in January 2008.

In July 2008, Linux distributor PC/OS announced that Firefox would be replaced by Flock on its workstation releases. Earlier, in February 2008, AOL announced that it would recommend Flock and Firefox to its user base. Those who use Netscape 8 will only have Flock recommended to them.

The company has raised more than $30 million: an undisclosed amount from angel investors, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Catamount Ventures; a $2 million Series A from Bessemer and Catamount; a $3.3 million Series B from Bessemer; a $10 million Series C from Shasta Ventures; and a $15 million Series D from Fidelity, Bessemer, Catamount, and Shasta.

The company has witnessed a 250% increase in its user base and a 400% increase in its revenue since January. Its revenue model is similar to that of other browsers: Flock gets a share of revenue from searches that are directed to its search partners. According to VentureBeat, the company gets revenue from Yahoo! for displaying Yahoo’s search engine as the default option within the browser and is paid an average of more than $3 per user per year.

The browser has come a long way since it was launched. It had been criticized for its user interface and questioned about its reliability due to bugs. Further, its interface and features were touted to be overkill. Flock 2 has noticeable improvements, including the security features of Firefox 3, malware detection and blocking, and new favorites and downloads managers.

Despite all the accolades it has received, Flock lacks the popularity enjoyed by Firefox and Internet Explorer. Though the company is concentrating its efforts on global expansion, it will be some time before the browser can join the top league.

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008


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Transcripts Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 12:35 PM PT