They brought us the first popular free email service in Hotmail. Now Microsoft is playing catch up to Facebook, opening up its So.cl social network to the general public. Could it be they've build what Google dreamed of pre-Google Plus?
So.cl, pronounced social, is powered by Microsoft's search engine Bing, brings social to search, allowing like-minded users to comment on search results, to share content from any website and host a now familiar profile page.
Users can choose to sign in with Facebook, when So.cl will tell you it's an experimental service, a beta test, and not a finished product. The greeting script reads that the latest release from Microsoft's Fuse labs is a "research project... focused on the future of social experiences and learning."
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That's a clever way of avoiding direct comparison to the well-established Facebook, and the unpopular GooglePlus.
Analysts won't be fooled, So.cl is obviously a Facebook competitor. Eden Zoller, principal analyst at technology consultants Ovum, told the BBC: "The fact that So.cl is targeted at students echoes Facebook's beginnings and has made many assume it is a Facebook clone."
Fiddling with it as it was launched to the general user, we were suggested areas we may be interested in; eclipse, robin gibb, niagara falls fall and music. These were all based on our search history. Search for some dodgy terms, and you could find them on your So.cl page.
Searching for subjects we're interested in, such as gluten-free cake, yields a pinterest-style infiniti scroll of cake images that made us hungry. It's a very sticky use of search, in that we got stuck in there looking at the results.
It is, by default, early days, but so far, So.cl looks like what Google Plus wish they had achieved with their floundering community.
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