By Raaj Datta (NVONews.Com)
Microsoft has quietly launched its own social networking search site So.cl. Pronounced ‘social’, the latest offering from the Redmond giant is a combination of social networking and search, where people can find and share interesting websites – just like students when they work together.
The launch was as quiet as possible following the launch of the Facebook IPO and the wedding of Zuckerberg. Microsoft had last December hinted at So.cl being a learner’s tool. Microsoft terms the project as an experimental research focussed on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning. The project is developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs.
Perhaps in the wake of past failures and the fear of being criticised, Microsoft maintains that it expects students to continue to use social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, as well as search tools like Bing and Google.
Though So.cl comes at a time when Facebook is going through a major embarrassment, it is not designed to be a threat to Facebook or any other social networking site. In fact, the networking site requires you to sign up with your Facebook user ID or Windows Live ID.
On signing up, you are greeted by the usual terms and conditions and a message on the left that reads – “So.cl is an experiment in open search. That means your searches on So.cl are viewable by other So.cl users and will also be available to third parties. So.cl does not automatically post your searches, comments, or likes to your Facebook stream unless you choose this option. Also, we don’t contact your Facebook friends unless you invite them.”
The fun starts here. When you go to the next page, you are greeted with a message that thanks you for joining the So.cl ‘waiting list.’ If that was not enough, there are two buttons – one that asks you to follow So.cl on Twitter and another that asks you to like it on Facebook, even when you haven’t used it. However, once you are in, the features start showing up all over – similar as well as new ones.
The latest from Microsoft uses Bing for search data via the public API, but the company insists that it’s not a sidekick of Bing. The site has a number of features present on Facebook that include sharing, commenting and tagging.
Apart from the similarities, Microsoft has introduced a new feature called Riff. It is similar to the Comment feature, but assists users to respond to a post with a bit of difference. Clicking “Riff” begins a new post, which is more of a response based on an older post. Another prominent feature is the ability to create “video parties,” allowing users to search and assemble videos that they can share with other users.
As the project is still in a beta phase, expectations are not sky high, especially when the social networking giant, Facebook, has drawn flak from investors and users alike for its business model that went flat post the IPO. On the bright side, it might be a good opportunity and time for Microsoft to study the gaps so that it can implement what’s needed.