While Facebook is busy reveling over its recent IPO, Microsoft has quietly taken its own social network, So.cl, out of beta and opened it up to users around the globe.
So.cl (pronounced “social”) is technically not a Facebook competitor. The experimental research project developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs was designed to help students study by “exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning.”
“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,” explained Microsoft in its So.cl FAQ. “We hope to encourage students to reimagine how our everyday communication and learning tools can be improved, by researching, learning and sharing in their everyday lives.”
That said, the social network borrows elements from Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest and is not just limited to students and their research projects. It offers Google+ Hangout-like “video parties” and visually rich media montages that take strong cues from Pinterest and combines social networking and search for collaborative Wikipedia-like search results where users can add their own spin on specific topics (aka “riffing”).
The Next Web believes So.cl goes deeper than a social experiment for students: “it’s clearly in response to Google’s success in pulling all of its products together with a ‘social spine,’” said the blog.
Marketing Land provided a look inside the social network and showed why users might choose So.cl over social network giant Facebook or Google+ before concluding, “I find it confusing about why anyone wants to use this given how many other social networks are out there, much less Microsoft already having baked social sharing into Bing.”