Yup. You heard that right. Microsoft is getting into the act too with its own social network called So.cl (pronounced So-shull). Do we really need another social network? Well, maybe, if it can bring something new to the table. So.cl’s angle is the ability to share your searching, presumably via Bing, with others in order to elicit commentary and maybe help someone else who might be looking for the same thing. Hence the “Find what you need and Share what you know” tagline. The status update box is actually titled “what are you searching for?” You can toggle the box to a more traditional style update as well. When you enter text in the box, the text hits your feed with related search results, also presumably via Bing.
You can add tags to save the search terms to a list, much like a favorites or bookmark tool. Items in the news feed can also be commented on or tagged by others. Another slightly different twist is the Video Party function – you can watch YouTube (and only YouTube at this time) videos with friends and chat about what you are watching. It also has a question feature, not quite so robust as Quora, and the ability to find and follow people with similar interests or topics of interest.
The interface is clean and you can make rich posts with montages of images and links from Bing when you search. Very sharp looking. People can comment on your posts – very social indeed.
The idea of saving your search results in a visually-appealing way sure sounds a lot like Pinterest, but it isn’t quite the same as a visual bookmarking service. The idea appears to be the creation of micro-resource posts for your friends and for yourself.
So.cl is being designed with educational institutions in mind, but it is currently open to the public for testing – it’s a product of Microsoft’s Fusion Labs. Who knows how long it will last or whether it will hit the prime time. But, I think it might have a chance. The social search angle hasn’t been fully developed yet and it seems an easy way to share knowledge and expertise. Why not head on over and try it out. Then head back here and post your feedback and your best guess as to whether this newcomer can survive in the dog-eat-dog world that is social networking.