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Firefox, Folkd sniff social glue

As you may have read recently, either here or elsewhere, Mozilla has announced an early development release of a social Add-On extension called The Coop to their Firefox web browser. Almost immediately, thoughts turned to Flock, fellow stable mate and web browser with special social glue.

However, with Mozilla proposing similar social stickiness for Firefox, Flock could find themselves coming unstuck.

That’s the background out of the way. Now let’s look at some other issues.

Based on the early release version of The Coop, Deborah Richman makes some interesting points over at Search Engine Watch:

“First, the social browser is ‘set’ to the same channels of friends and content. When your interests change, that means you’ll want to re-tune to other people. Otherwise, you’ll see things that aren’t interesting – literally every time you open your browser.”

It’s a fair enough point to make. But it also assumes that we’re all the veritable social butterflies, flitter fluttering from one taste, fad, kick and buzz to another at the breath & fancy of a wind, fair or foul.

But then I’m from a different generation, so maybe she’s right, I don’t know.

“The most basic pitfall? Browsers aren’t portable and many people have separate work and home computers.”

Oh but they are! Well, so long as you’re using Firefox. And given that’s the browser we’re talking about, let me introduce those less familiar with last weeks ramblings to the snappily titled Google Browser Sync, which is currently enjoying some renewed exposure over on Now Public.

By making good use of this Firefox Add-On, it doesn’t really matter where you are. So if you’re reading Deborah, give it a try, girl. Let me know what you think.

I’m currently using Google Browser Sync with Firefox on my MacBook Pro here at home and on my G5 in my office, and the report is so far so good.

This one goes to eleven

So it’s a question of fine(r) tuning? OK, let’s think about that for a second.

“Also, The Coop doesn’t fully consider the vast amount of people you reach occasionally online. You might have some interests in common, but aren’t going to sign up to see everything these people want to share. It makes me wonder where social search fits in this picture.”

I’d like to think that some later iteration of The Coop would offer an option to tentatively add people to your network. So even if your tastes do last longer than a lunar month, your recent, incidental contacts won’t.

The social web? Been there, done that!

If it’s social glue you want for your web browser right now, then look no further than Folkd.

I happened upon these guys ages and ages ago, and they’re still plugging away with a gamma release of their Add-On, which sounds dangerous, but hey! If you’re using Internet Explorer, what’s one more risk?

It’s pointless even trying to describe fully what Folkd does, because there’s just so much in there! So you’d be better off havin’ a squint at their Quick Tour.

They do try to describe what it is that Folkd does, but it’s still not enough:

“The idea is to aggregate recommendations, tags (keywords), audio records, comments or just “more information” which exists within knowledge of the people (the folks!) and connect it to particular webpages or topics. You and other folkd users will use this additional information while surfing to discover the web faster and find things you’d probably have missed otherwise.”

So after reading that and watching their video clip, you might then be able to see what kind of possibilities you could expect of the new social web over the coming months and years.

In light of what Folkd is doing right now, speculating about what The Coop might offer in the future is where we ought to look next:

“A second phase of development would include the ability to keep track of what a friend is up to online – for instance, seeing the latest blog posts, uploaded photos or tagged Web sites or marked favorite videos.”

So you’ve watched the Folkd video, right? Well, you’ll see that The Coop isn’t exactly a huge step forward. In fact, it’s iterative rather than innovative.

Right now, we might see neither The Coop or Folkd walk away from this as victors. But what we will see is the idea of a more socially pervasive web browsing experience become the accepted norm rather than the exceptional exception…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.