There once was a multi-platform web browser called Flock which integrated a bunch of social networking and media capabilities, including email and instant messaging, into a modern tab-based browser. The idea was to create a single app which combined multiple functionalities. $30-million later the investors and management still hadn’t figured out a business model and Flock died on the vine.
Or, did it? Now there’s a Flock instant messaging service. A chat-like app that could compete with Skype, Slack, and others, but under the guise of team collaboration, and this time there’s a business model, although using Flock is free for Mac, iPhone, Windows PC, Chrome, Android, and Windows Phone.
On the surface Flock works something like iChat or FaceTime audio (or Skype or other one-to-one chat apps), but with an easy to setup interface, and a few twists to differentiate the app from others. Flocks does chat one-on-one, of course, and allows you to share files with other Flock users.
That’s where the business model comes in, but more on that below.
Flock also includes groups of Flock users in the messaging by adding the @Mention functionality (think of it as Twitter hashtags but for people).
As easy as it is to setup Flock and use it for direct instant messaging with other Flock users, there are some geekier aspects; loaded with functionality but another layer of things to remember. For example, there are slash /Commands which make it easy to mute a group, leave a group, set or change status.
That’s handy for heavy duty users but something else to remember for casual users.
Fortunately, Flock captures all your conversations with other Flock users so you can search a history of threads; perfect for audit trails of who said what. Lawyers will love that feature.
Flock makes it easy to setup an entire company or office of Flock instant messaging users, and the multi-platform app means you’re always connected, and synchronized between devices. Flock says all communications between users is stored redundantly and secure but I couldn’t find out how.
Alright, if Flock is free, what’s the business model?
The free plan lets you share up to 100 files, and 100-megabytes per file, with others, and conversation history is stored only for 30 days. The Pro Plan adds up to 1,000 files for sharing at 100-megs per file, and unlimited conversation history at $3 per month. Flock will need lots of customers to generate a worthy revenue stream.
Still, Flock has some merit worth exploring, whether you’re a small office, or a large company with employees that need to be in constant contact and need an easy way to share large files over an efficient instant messaging system.