Flock or Rockmelt? Neither.

This morning I spent a few minutes using Rockmelt and Flock, two new “social browsers” that integrate your social networks into the browsing interface. Both browsers are built in Chromium, the open source version of the Google Chrome browser. Because they are built on Chromium, both are fast and relatively lightweight and stable.


This is a nice browser, and I like the Friends on the left edge and Feeds and Apps on the right. The Friend edge has two views, to see your friends by online status, or see only your “starred” friends. A Share button allows a quick share of whatever you’re browsing. I had a bit of a problem importing my Chrome settings – it worked but not the way I expected.

TIP: Chrome bookmarks get put in an “imported from Chrome” folder, and so you have to drag them over to where you really want them using the Bookmark Manager.

Extensions don’t work properly. I use a few important extensions, including Google Voice and Bit.ly, and they just don’t work in Rockmelt. When installed, they show up on the Feeds and Apps edge, rather than the toolbar, and when clicked, they just open the website rather than their drop-down menu. This kills Rockmelt for me, but hopefully it’s something the developers can fix quickly.

My last complaint is a bit fussy: the bookmark bar drop-down menus have a strange double-spaced feel to them. This seems odd since the rest of the browser is nicely designed, and it is probably easily fixed.



Flock has a simple side-bar for seeing feeds. Here you can select what group of friends you want to watch, and you can manage who is in which group and add new groups. The interface is easy to understand and everything worked for me as expected. The Profile Page for your Flock Account features a Favorites feature that tempts me to start tagging websites again.

Flock has also really thought through the friend/connection interface. At first, I thought it didn’t work right.  I had my friend Adina Levin showing up three times… Nope, just combine them by dragging one Adina onto another. Once all your Adina’s are combined, you can click the combined card to see detail of all their accounts.

TIP: The one you drag ONTO is the one that shows up as the picture for your friend.

One suggestion for the Flock developers: Flock should handled combining of friends using the  identity consolidation microformat “rel=me”. This would allow the above consolidation to work automatically or be greatly simplified.

[ more on rel=me can be read at: http://microformats.org/wiki/rel-me ]



Neither browser is quite doing it for me yet. I like the simplicity of the Rockmelt Edge interface, but the bugs make it unusable for me. Flock is more stable, but the interface makes me do too much manually and it doesn’t have the industrial-strength multi-network features of a social networking app like Seesmic Desktop 2.

But I’ll be watching both of these effort closely. Both teams have done some interesting work here and with a little work either could win me over. I would love to see them synchronize with my google account. Both should parse and understand the lists I’ve already made on Twitter and elsewhere. And both should be able to do something interesting for me based on whose shared links I click and the updates I read. There is a lot of interesting opportunity here for an integrated experience that might make these browsers much more than a browser with some extensions.

IIW Fascinates Me

Since the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW11) last week, I’ve been reflecting on how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go.

My Google ID, Yahoo ID, Facebook ID, and even my own domain’s OpenID can all be used to create and maintain accounts around the internet. Many services also have connections between them, allowing my Flickr photos to show up on Facebook and Google Buzz and making every post to my blog show up as a tweet @dariusdunlap.

Unfortunately, this is still all too complicated, but it is getting better all the time. Many people are working on the problems, and at IIW they are all sharing results, ideas, and making new plans. For example, the Google security team presented their excellent research on user interface for shared IDs and subsequently released impressive documentation of their work.

Today (well, yesterday if you are living in Europe like me) Google released a demo site – it is a store – and accompanying material like videos, tutorials, and best practices that provide detailed explanations on how to become a relying party, match an existing user base with OpenID, and much more.  Eric Sachs, product manager, Google Security, announced this on the OpenID mailing list today.

From: Google Releases Impressive Documentation of OpenID Implementation | Not So Relevant

?Behind all this are serious concerns about privacy and data ownership. The kerfuffle between Google and Facebook over contact data sharing is just one very visible corner of this iceberg. Although Facebook is more open than ever, their stance is more than a little disingenuous.

Suffice to say, you cannot bring your Facebook contacts into Gmail, as you can with Yahoo and Microsoft. Thus, the issue clearly isn’t that Facebook doesn’t think you have the right to mass export emails. It seems that Facebook simply doesn’t want you to mass export them into Google — not unless, I suppose, it gets a business deal with Google. And if it doesn’t want to do a deal, then those emails don’t get to go. They aren’t yours. They belong to Facebook, and can only be exported to the business partners that Facebook agrees with.

From: ?Facebook: You’ve No Right To Export Email Addresses (Unless It’s To Yahoo & Microsoft)

Yes, Facebook is more open than ever. But will they be able to navigate through their dominant position to become a truly open partner, or will they fade like so many walled gardens before?

Walled garden
?Walled Garden by recursion_see_recursion on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Why does this all matter?

The creativity, expression, and commerce the internet enables has already changed our lives. Although some Americans seem to believe they don’t need it, there is no doubt that it has transformed our society and will continue to for many years.

The internet works because it is an open platform. Nobody has to ask permission to create the next Facebook, the next Google or Yahoo!, or (more likely) something completely new. The people and organizations at IIW are working together to define how the internet handles identity and the related aspects of security and data ownership, including links between people and connections between services. All the biggest organizations are represented, including Facebook and Google.

This underlying open platform for identity and control of personal information is still being formed. There is much to be done before this all “just works” the way email does – but that’s exactly what needs to happen.


Liberating your contacts from Facebook

Here is a simple method of getting your contacts out of Facebook and into your Gmail.

It starts with Yahoo! Facebook allows exporting of contacts to Yahoo!, reportedly through a lucrative arrangement. You will need a Yahoo Mail account, but they are free: ? http://www.yahoo.com/ – and click “Signup” if you don’t already have an account.

in your Yahoo mail, there is a Contacts selector in the left column. it looks like this:




Once you have selected Contacts,  Select Tools -> Import, as shown:



You will get a dialogue like the one shown below. Select Facebook:



Facebook will ask you to confirm that you want to share contacts with Yahoo!, click “Okay”.




Yahoo! will report success, including the number of contacts imported.




Now you export the contacts, using a very similar method. This time, select Tools -> Export, as shown.




Choose an export format in the dialogue shown below. Yahoo! CSV works best for importing to Google.



Yahoo! checks to see that you are a real person by asking you to transcribe some mashed up letters:



Once the export is complete, open and log into Gmail, select Contacts, and then More Actions -> Export. You will get an “Import contacts dialogue like the one below.



Choose the file, and I recommend also adding these to a special group at the same time, which will help you see them all. Google seems to do a pretty good job of merging duplicates, but having them in a special group will help you check and fix any problems. (I had no problems from my import.)





Congratulations! Your Facebook friends’ contact info are now all in your Gmail!












Why your computer runs slow – Flash

My computers are all set up with Adobe Flash installed. I also run a Flash Blocker on every browser. Since first installing a Flash blocker, my computer is more reliable and websites load faster. Adobe’s CTO is happy to blame Apple, of course:

“That’s what upsets me the most,” he says. “That people put energy into making this stuff, and now some percentage of viewers can’t see it anymore because one company chooses so. That’s just totally counter to our values.”

Excerpt from: Adobe CTO on MacBook Air, HTML5: Flash Battery Problems a “False Argument” | Fast Company

Apple’s fight with Adobe over Flash is a symptom of a problem. It’s not the problem. I don’t see any Flash ads. Ever. The only time I click to box to allow Flash is when it is actually delivering the user experience I want. I think that’s going to be less and less.

Media disruption – it’s all about the audience

Another Must-read from Om Malik:

For the media industry  (which is video, music and print), there has been one more, and perhaps the farthest-reaching, failure: the inability of the folks to grok that today’s audience is not tomorrow’s audience. It goes without saying there’s a whole generation of folk that has either grown up, or are growing up, on the Internet. Their consumption and online behavior is going to be predicated on a distribution medium whose basic premise is abundance. They will find, curate and consume on their own terms, on their own choice of screens and on their own time.

Generation D, where D is for disruption, is adapted to route around the old models: old models controlled by old men. My friend Pip Coburn believes that “routing around these old models” offers new opportunities. There’s a reason why IAC is, and will always remain, a reflection in a dirty pond –- a collection of properties that is unable to understand the new Internet people. If they don’t, someone else will, and they will become the next Ev Williams or Mark Zuckerberg.

Excerpt from: There is No New Media: It’s All New Consumption: Tech News «


We can think of this as “skate to where the audience will be.”


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I Shared What?!?

This is a sophisticated crowd at the Internet Identity Workshop, full of people who are very aware of the issues around identity, security, and privacy.

Joe Andrieu is showing his brilliant and simple tool “I Shared What?!?”. Login at http://isharedwhat.com/ and see what gets shared with apps on Facebook when you allow them access to your account. Just go through the signup and permission process as with any faceook app, and then use the tabs on the right side to see all the information you’ve shared. You can even change the sharing permissions and explore the changes.

Here’s what it looks like… (I chopped off all the juicy stuff below. Go look at your own!)