Blackbird, a custom browser for the African-American community launched today to mixed reviews from mainstream users. We were tipped off about the browser a while ago, but this afternoon we actually had an opportunity to “talk turkey” with Blackbird co-founder and CEO 40A Inc. Ed Young.
“Blackbird was originally the brainchild of Arnold Brown, who wanted a way to tie all black content online into one location,” Young says. So Young and Brown decided that the best way to encompass all of this web content was to use the tool that all content has in common, the Web browser. Blackbird was built using Mozilla technology, which gives the browser a similar look and feel to Firefox. And by default, BlackBird imports all of your Firefox plug-ins. But what makes Blackbird different is its custom add-ons, bookmarks, relevant bookmarks, and themes designed to cater to the Black community.
Not to take away from BlackBird as a product, there are some handy features for those who surf the Web in search of Black content, like:
- A Built-in Black video channel
- Scrolling RSS feeds displayed in a news ticker fashion (you can turn this feature off if it gets to be a bit too much for you)
- Pre-determined folders of bookmarks covering a range of topics including: Lifestyle, People and Networks, News and Politics, Sports and Entertainment, Business and Professional, Community and Organizations, as well as Black Colleges and Universities which contains a bookmark to every HBCU website
- The ability to create custom add-ons like we all love to do in Firefox.
- “Blackbird Black Search,” a Google Custom search engine which attempts to provide Blackbird users with more relevant search results. (If you choose not to use the Blackbird search engine, Blackbird still gives you the standard option of choosing from search engines such as Google, AOL search, and even Black Search Engine Rushmore Drive.)
As far as custom add-ons are concerned, Young says, “Now this is what gives me goose bumps. We are currently working on a developer community that will give African-American developers, both young and old, the ability to create custom add-ons and themes for Blackbird.”
But what everyone wants to know, and what we thoroughly discussed with Young, is Blackbird’s business model. Blackbird is cultivating partnerships with video content providers to provide them with distribution opportunities through Blackbird’s Video Channel, as well advertising is built into the video channel offering. And, Blackbird also has plans to monetize its search results.”
Young also discussed the controversy — particularly as it regarded race — surrounding the browser’s release, originally slated for 6 PM EST today. “Black Bird is not a separate thing, it’s an interest thing,” he says.
While Young wasn’t surprised by the comments he was on sites like TechCrunch, he says that the notion that a browser for African-Americans is separatist is false. Though he does admit there could be an adoption issue, simply because most Blacks use whichever version of IE is installed on their computer. Yet, he believes “that Blackbird is all about increasing relevancy.”
From our perspective, the greatest difference between BlackBird and the social browser flock is that it provides users with easy access to the Black experience. What many commentors over at TC FAIL to realize is that there is a Black culture and a Black Experience, and this naturally translates online and into any other medium since we are all a part of the human race. In 2008 it is not wrong to want to identify with your culture regardless of what that culture may be or how you choose to identify with it.
BlackBird is about as separatist as BlackVoices, BlackPlanet, RushmoreDrive, and heck even Black Web 2.0 is. Exactly…it isn’t.
If you’re interested in the latest Blackbird news, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.