Why the Flock Doesn't Flock

Sarah Perez wonders why more people don’t use Flock, the super-charged Firefox based web browser that has lots of social networking features baked right in to the interface.  That’s a good question, and after thinking about it, I have a theory.

I think it has to do with the Facebook/geek ratio.  By geek, I don’t mean someone who swims deeply in the online ocean.  I mean the hardcore technophiles, like most of the people who write for and read the big tech blogs, etc.  I am a part of that demographic, along with lots of the people I blog and tweet around with.  Our population seems large, because of the world-shrinking effect of the technology.  The same technology that allows me to be friends and podcast mates with two dudes from Australia also allows people to have and stay in constant communication with like-minded friends all over the world.  So while the geek crowd seems large, it’s not.

As a result, we make the mistake of thinking that everyone views the net and the associated apps and services the same way we do.  But most people clearly don’t.

A lot of the tools geeks think are indispensible- like Twitter, for example- have not penetrated the larger population nearly as much as it may appear from our little corner of the net.  One celebrity gets a million followers, and others have to match that.  Take away the race to a million and the resulting celebrity turf/ego war and Twitter would still be just a popular, unprofitable Web 2.0 application that few of our real world friends have ever heard of.  I can still count the number of Twitter users I know in the real world on one hand.

Compare that story to the evolution of Facebook.  It was created and grew up out there in the real world, with millions of young people using it daily.  As those young people grew up, they took Facebook with them.  Then Facebook opened up and the momentum-chasing herd of geeks migrated over there and, on occasion, fooled themselves into believing they had discovered something new and cool.  To the original Facebook population, it was neither new nor cool.  It was just part of ordinary life, like a TV or a telephone.  While the newly arrived geeks began to honk and bray about Facebook taking over world, the young old guard just went about their lives, with Facebook as a utility, but not a religion.

A utility, however, that for most is the hub for their online activity and for many is their online activity.  The reason the Facebook walls have survived relatively intact is because the large majority of Facebook users are happy to live inside those walls.  Most of them have never even used Firefox, much less Flock.  It’s this demographic, not the vocal in our browsers but otherwise largely irrelevant geek crowd, that makes Facebook go.

At the end of the day, what this means is that Louis Gray is right when he says the operating system doesn’t matter to most people.  It doesn’t, because for many of them, Facebook is the operating system (for others some combination of Google applications are).  They don’t need a new or super-charged browser to use Facebook or some other social network, because they use Facebook to do all of that stuff.  Which explains why so many of these ancillary social networks seem so Facebook-centric.  They know where the biggest population of potential users are.

All these kids need is a way into Facebook, and maybe Gmail.  The best operating system and browser to do that with are the ones that  are already on your computer.

No Flock required.