Blackbird: The African American Web Browser and Philanthropry on the Web

Yeah, you read that right. Blackbird: African American web browser.

First thought — Totally ignored it when I got the link.

Some consider me a go-to-person on the web regarding Black folks, technology and social media. After several requests for thoughts and jokes about the browser, I thought I’d officially add my 2 cents.

Check out some of my web conversations below:

My dude Dallas Black, an African American consultant from Texas currently working in Helsinki, Finland, asked me: “Whats a custom browser for blacks like? Does it load really late and every ad is for soul plane 2?” I responded with “LOOOOOOOOOL. Funnnnny. You know I’m gonna have to throw in my 2 cents on this.”

Another blogger, the78msj, asked me what I thought. I responded quickly with No I haven’t tried the browser. Not gonna try in the future. I don’t need anyone helping me find Black content.” Her response of “hmmmm okay” made me laugh and go back and reread what i originally wrote. I now recognize that it was a little flippant, not because I meant to be, but because I can’t believe in the audacity of someone trying to make an African American web browser.

Flo King from TOFLO.com: Your Source for Toronto Urban Life asked Good thing or bad thing?

I’m writing my response to Flo and clarifying my flippant statement above here.

Blackbird. African American Web Browser. A skinned version of FireFox. (Skinned = same technology with custom user interface.) Bad idea. Very bad.

I think it’s a bad idea first and foremost because technology can’t be African American. Or, any other ethnic/racial group.

Secondly, the makers of Blackbird state that it “was developed on the simple proposition that we, as the African American community, can make the Internet experience better for ourselves and, in doing so, make it better for everyone.”

I like the statement, but they haven’t created anything which advances technology to make the internet experience better. According to TechCrunch, “the browser displays a pre-set news ticker on top, pulls in news content from Google News that might be of interest to African-Americans, and features a section with video content from online TV sites like UptownLiveTV, NSNewsTV, DigitalSoulTV and ComedyBanksTV. Other than that, there’s a lot of integration with the most popular social networks, a ‘Black Search’, preset ‘Black Bookmarks’, etc.”

Where’s the innovation? How is my web experience enhanced by letting Blackbird filter information through their browser? By visiting African American sites “they” select? Who are “they”? What qualifies them to select African American content? Any Black Studies PhDs or “African American experts” affiliated with the site to determine “the best content”? What is their criteria for acceptable content? Is there any? Do they reject any African American sites? So many questions.

I also think its awfully presumptuous of them to think that as an African American, my online browsing should be limited to African American only content. Should I make my life more difficult by using two browsers? One for African American stuff and another for everything else? Does the browser work when searching for non-African American information? Will I get an error message if I try?

I’m not trying to knock anyone’s hustle, but I just wish they had taken the same value proposition and created a website that introduced me to new content without limiting my use of technology. (My perception.)

Blackbird also states that they recognize that “African American community organizations need and deserve greater visibility on the web.” I agree. They also say “African Americans are more likely to use the internet for charitable giving than the general population.” They are currently developing a service that will connect their users to African American community organizations. The organizations will be able to highlight upcoming events and ask for donations and volunteers. The Give Back service will be available through the Blackbird Browser.”

I like the goal to help community organizations, but maybe a stand alone website would be better than the connection to the browser.

Until they add the Give Back service, or if you decide not to download the browser but want to assist community organizations, check out the Take Action and Benefit/Fundraiser sections on AroundHarlem.com for organizations that need your time and money, visit the blog Black Gives Back: A Blog Dedicated to Philanthropy in the Black Community for info about philanthropic activities around the country and check out VolunteerMatch.org, “a leader in the nonprofit world dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer. Volunteer Match offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement. Their popular service welcomes millions of visitors a year and has become the preferred internet recruiting tool for more than 61,000 nonprofit organizations.” They match you with local organizations by zip code.

Volunteer Match is great because opportunities are divided into different categories for different types of volunteers. Ex. Great for Kids, Great for Teens, Great for 55+, Great for Groups, etc. They also have short term and long term opportunities. The latest e-mail that I received from them had requests for someone to help with an Online Community for the Invisible Youth Network, a Website Designer for an organization called We, The World and a job opening for an Environmental Clean Up Director for Planting Peace.

What are your thoughts? Are you going to try Blackbird?


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