Microsoft has opened up So.cl (pronounced ‘social’), its social networking service to one and all. Earlier, So.cl could be accessed only by invitees at schools and universities in USA.
So.cl is supposed to be different from the run of the mill social networking. According to information available of the So.cl FAQ page, it helps users to “create rich stories (posts) by making it easy to assemble and share collages of web content.”
So.cl is a research product developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs unit. It allows users to search Video Parties, one of the features available in So.cl lets user to create video playlists and share with friends. On identification of ‘like-minded’ people interested in the same topics, users can then monitor their feeds and hold video ‘parties’ and watch online video together, exchanging comments through chat pages.
Members can sign in with their Facebook account but their So.cl activities will appear on Facebook pages only if the option has been activated.
The fact that So.cl targets students, which is what Facebook did in the beginning, has made analysts assume that it is a Facebook clone. Even more interesting is the fact that the decision to open it to the general public was taken over the weekend without much publicity. The low profile launch has incited comments by some analysts that Microsoft is not too ambitious about So.cl.
On its part, Microsoft claims that So.cl is an ‘experiment’ rather than a competitor to other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Although homogeneous in nature, its purpose is to be a layer on existing networks. According to Microsoft, it has “a minimal set of features which help combine search with social networking for the purpose of learning.”
This seems to be an intelligent and well thought of strategy on the part of Microsoft considering that Google Plus is proving to be a damp squib despite being launched as a full-fledged social networking service. According to Eden Zoller, chief analyst technology consultants Ovum, So.cl may further improve the search capabilities of Bing.