How Did Social Web Browser Flock Lose Its Friends?

It’s a bad day when a social media tool fails to keep its friends. So explains the “closed for business” sign now hanging on the virtual door of once-hot social media Web browser Flock.

It’s a bad day when a social media tool fails to keep its friends.  So explains the “closed for business” sign now hanging on the virtual door of once-hot social media Web browser Flock.

Support for the 5-year-old social Web browser will be discontinued on April 26, according to an announcement released on the company’s website.

The shutdown comes just months after Flock was part of a much-heralded acquisition by social-gaming start-up Zynga.  So what happened?

Flock was launched in 2006 as a way to integrate social media tools into a desktop Web browser, making it easier for users to use Facebook and other social networks to blog, share online content and chat and receive status updates in real time.

In 2008, the site added RSS and MySpace support, followed by Facebook and Twitter in 2009. It then grew to include LinkedIn and YouTube support, along with other features.

But Flock never caught on with mainstream users, despite the growth of Flock-like features and add-ons in mainstream browsers and Flock’s own expansion to Google Chromium last year after starting out on the Mozilla Firefox engine.

Flock’s end could also be a result of bad timing.  The browser emerged just as both the social nature of the Web and Facebook’s Open Graph initiative expanded, largely eliminating the need for social media users to use a browser to network.

Zynga, the developer of the popular “FarmVille” and “CityVille” social games, among others, brought Flock under its wings in January 2011.

Now the Flock team is, “working to assist Zynga in achieving their goal of building the most fun, social games available to anyone, anytime — on any platform,” according to the company.

As of April 26th, Flock will continue to function but its sync and social networking capabilities will shut down, making it just like other browsers on the Web.

“Flock will no longer be actively maintained … key features will stop working after 4/26/11 and over time the browser will no longer be secure as software updates and upgrades will no longer be provided,” reads a FAQ entry on the site.

So what are stranded Flock users to do?

Flock is recommending users transition to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.  An FAQ is also provided for users who want to transition their favorites and feeds to a new browser.

Fans looking for another type of social browser may also turn to Rockmelt, a startup browser launched late last year by the founder of Netscape.

Just this month, RockMelt released its beta 2 version that runs on Google Chromium 10 and includes both a chat feature that docks multiple chats at the bottom of the browser bar and a “view later” app that bookmarks favorites.