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A Browser Renaissance?

When someone mentioned last week that Flock, the much-loved but second-tier Web browser, had raised $15-million in venture capital, my immediate reaction was “Really!”

Despite Flock’s continued improvement, growing number of users and its drive to become the social networking browser, it was still a surprise to see it attract so much money, led by Fidelity Ventures.

Based on the press release, the rationale for the investment is that “there are currently over 230 million members of social networks globally, and revenues are projected to reach $2.4 billion by 2012″. Translation: Flock could become an interesting business if it can roll out new features and capture more market share.

With Flock revitalized, Firefox 3.0, Internet Explorer 8.0 looming on the horizon and Apple’s growth giving Safari a boost, the browser market is becoming a far more interesting place. In fact, it’s probably the most exciting competitive landscape since IE and Netscape went head-to-head nearly a decade ago.

Back then, IE pulverized Netscape, and arguably innovation in the browser market disappeared until Firefox appeared on the scene. Today, the browser market is vibrant again, and Flock’s financing could suggest investors are taking a deep look at the engine driving Web 2.0.

This should not come as a surprise given there’s a lot happening in the search market despite the fact Google has a stranglehold on it. New players such as Powerset continue to emerge and there’s no lack of stealth projects trying to develop a better mouse trap. There are also many companies going after niches that Google doesn’t want to pursue – a vertical approach that some new browser start-ups may want to explore.

If a browser renaissance is, in fact, happening, it can only mean good things for consumers and the Web’s evolution as a computing platform.

For more, check out today’s New York Times, which describes the browser market as a “battleground”.

Funding Enables Flock to Expand Globally and Extend Leadership in Browser Innovation

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Flock (www.flock.com), the innovative, award-winning social Web browser, today announced that it has completed a $15 million Series D round of venture funding led by Fidelity Ventures. All previous lead investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Catamount Ventures and Shasta Ventures, also participated.

This new funding exceeds the amounts raised in all prior rounds combined and will be used to provide growth capital to expand Flock’s business, including research and development, marketing and expansion into new global markets. According to Datamonitor, there are currently over 230 million members of social networks globally, and revenues are projected to reach $2.4 billion by 20121. Fidelity Ventures brings the advantages of its tremendous global reach and experience to assist in growing Flock’s business.

“We are thrilled to close this significant round of financing,” said Shawn Hardin, CEO of Flock. “Following the tremendous market response to Flock’s commercial release, this new funding will enable us to continue our browser innovation – making engagement and participation across social networks and the Web as effortless as consumption.”

“The browser is strategic because it enables nearly everything users do online,” said Larry Cheng, Partner at Fidelity Ventures. “Flock’s social browser is the most compelling innovation in the browser market in over a decade. The reasons we invested are simple: great product, fantastic user adoption, and excellent revenue growth.”

Since January 2008, Flock’s user base has increased by more than 250 percent while its revenue has risen by more than 400 percent. In addition, Flock was named the winner of the Webby Award in the Social Networking category, which also included noteworthy nominees Facebook and Bebo. Hailed as the “the Internet’s highest honor” by the New York Times, The 12th annual Webby Awards received over 10,000 nominations from more than 60 countries worldwide.

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  • http://graduallythensuddenly.com Daniel Gibbons

    The revenue models that emerge in the new browser wars will be interesting. Firefox’s model (in which almost all of their revenue derives from the search deal with Google) is interesting, but while $50 million is a lot for Mozilla corp., it is hardly enough to go around if the market gets crowded.

    I’m not saying that it won’t be possible to create many other streams of revenue around the browser, and I agree with Cheng’s point about the strategic value of being a gateway to countless sites and services — but any thoughts on where else the revenue might come from?

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