Microsoft launches the So.cl network, which focuses on social search.
Amidst the numerous social networks a person can sign up to these days, Microsoft has launched one of its own called So.cl.
Microsoft describes so.cl (pronounced "social) as a social search tool that allows users to share information and meet people with common interest.
The new social search tool, publically launched during the wake of Facebook’s much anticipated and disappointing IPO performance, comes from Microsoft’s FUSE Labs which work with product and research teams to develop new social and media tools.
"So.cl is an experimental research project, developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs, focused on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning," the company said on the So.cl website.
So.cl was launched initially in 2011 for students at a few colleges and universities, now the site is available to anyone for a public trial.
Since So.cl seems to be targeted towards students, many have said it may be trying to follow in the steps of Facebook’s early days.
"Microsoft So.cl is not a fully-fledged social network and it is far too early to even suggest it could be a rival to Google+ or Facebook, and the chances are it never will be," says Eden Zoller, Principal analyst at Ovum. "The fact that So.cl is targeted at students echoes Facebook’s beginnings and has made many assume it is a Facebook clone. But So.cl is, as Microsoft stresses, an experiment and designed to be layer on existing social networks. Microsoft is being sensible in positioning So.cl in this way. The opposite approach of Google, which entered social networking all guns blazing with a full on service, is having modest success."
Microsoft, however, has pointed out that it is not a competitor to other social networks and that So.cl is an experiment designed to be friendly with other social networks.
"We expect students to continue using products such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other existing social networks, as well as Bing, Google and other search tools," the company said. "We hope 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."
So.cl users can sign in with their Facebook or Windows Live accounts.
So.cl’s search lets user’s share links while searching is powered by Bing. So.cl users can share media, real time videos, find people and information, as well as create montages of visual web content. Search results and data publically posted to So.cl will be available to other entities and individuals unless a user marked it as private.
Some analysts are sceptical that So.cl will obtain significant traction and successfully compete against Facebook or Google+.
"So.cl is powered by Bing and is about social search and sharing, with little value add beyond this and no-where near the kind of features offered by Facebook or Google+," says Zoller.
"If So.cl gains significant traction, which we think unlikely, then Microsoft might well ramp up the service with additional features, particularly mobile where Microsoft can tap into the Windows Phone platform. But for now So.cl will most likely remain an experiment at heart, which is no bad thing and Microsoft will still walk away with valuable insights and experience that can help improve its overall search capabilities, which is its major priority."
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