Microsoft has quietly launched its own social networking project that it said seeks to combine social networking and search, while encouraging interaction and collaboration.
Dubbed So.cl (pronounced “social”), the new network developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs is an “experimental research project” that explores social search for the purpose of learning.
“So.cl combines social networking and search, to help people find and share interesting web pages in the way students do when they work together. So.cl helps you create rich posts, by assembling montages of visual web content. To encourage interaction and collaboration, So.cl provides rich media sharing, and real time sharing of videos via ‘video parties,’” Microsoft said
It said that while it expects students to continue using products like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks along with Bing, Google and other search tools, it wants to encourage students to “re-imagine how our everyday communication and learning tools can be improved, by researching, learning and sharing in their everyday lives.”
Microsoft also emphasized that So.cl is not meant to replace existing full-featured search and social networking tools.
Rather, it said So.cl is an “experimental research project using a minimal set of features which help combine search with the social network for the purpose of learning.”
It said So.cl takes students’ practice of sharing links a step further by automatically sharing links as they search. The search experience is powered by Bing, Microsoft’s search engine.
So.cl data, such as search results, will be treated as public, unless a user marks it “private.”
Microsoft said it is partnering with selected schools such as the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University for the program.
Microsoft said it uses the public Bing APIs to display search result data.
“As students work together, they often look for the same content, and discover new shared interests by sharing results. These results can be web pages, images, or videos found through Bing. We see this trend today on many social networks, such as Twitter, where shared links spread virally and amplify popular content. So.cl experiments with this concept by letting you easily share links as you search,” it said.
On the other hand, So.cl extends the concept of sharing videos by letting one search and assemble a list of movies to view together with friends.
“You can view any existing party collection created by any other So.cl user, or create your own, and easily chat with other So.cl users,” Microsoft said.
Microsoft said So.cl uses Facebook authentication, which means “you use your Facebook account to log in, and your name and profile picture from Facebook appear in So.cl.”
While Microsoft does not post any content from So.cl into a Facebook stream by default, a user can choose to post content to Facebook using the share to Facebook feature in So.cl.
A separate article on The Next Web
said So.cl could be a “social glue” to Microsoft products, in the same way Google+ holds together Google’s products.
“So.cl appears to be the exact same play for Microsoft. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s clearly in response to Google’s success in pulling all of its products together with a ‘social spine,” it said. -GMA News