According to Microsoft, the network began life as “an experiment in social search” targeted at students for the purpose of learning. Back then it was called Tulalip, with Microsoft Research’s Fuse Labs officially launching it internally and to a select number of university students in October last year.
Following the lead of the Socl community, the company says, it has since evolved to be a service where people connect over shared interests “expressed through beautiful posts that take only seconds to create”.
The site comes with a lot of the flat post-modern aesthetic that Microsoft seems so set on these days, 8 along with the tiled look of Windows 8. Fuse also says it’s tried to democratise content on the site, even for people who speak different languages, by emphasizing imagery over “blue links” for search.
Mercifully Microsoft appears to have realised that it’s not going to get Facebook’s billion or so registered users to migrate. As is the case with most emerging social networks these days, Socl allows you to use your Facebook login, and comes with an app that will detail your activities on Facebook if you allow it to.
Once logged in, you can create a collage using images, video and text…sort of like Pinterest buy, you know, a collage instead of a pin board. Annoyingly you don’t seem to be able to customise the collage entries to appear in the order you want them to.
The similarities to other social networks don’t end there. You can also create “parties” where you can chat, create playlists, and watch videos with others, sort of like Google Hangouts. Presumably Microsoft wanted its version to sound more fun and less rooted in the every day.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the project is still in Beta and that it remains to be seen whether features allowing for private interaction will come in at a later stage. While it all seems a bit gimmicky, there is something to this “search by interest” idea. Whereas Facebook and Google have decided that leveraging your existing social connections is the way to go, Microsoft seems to have realised that your friends don’t necessarily share all your interests.
Search through Socl for a little while and you could find trustworthy sources in your areas of interest. You could argue that Twitter already offers that to some degree, but it doesn’t contain the same visual potency of Socl, which gives you a more complete idea of how someone represents their interests.
Now, let’s see how long it takes brands to start leveraging it.