Microsoft Opens Socl, Not Aimed at Facebook

If you’ve heard about all the closed beta testing of Microsoft’s new social network and wanted to know what the fuss was about, now is your chance. Socl, initially launched in May, is now open to just about everyone; all you need is a Facebook or Microsoft ID account to sign in. But be prepared to see something that looks like almost no other social network online. In fact, if you check out Socl’s FAQ, you’ll see that the software giant doesn’t even define it as a social network. “Socl is a research project from Microsoft Research FUSE Labs and began as an experiment in social search targeted at students for the purpose of learning,” it explains. The site emphasizes that point when answering a question about whether it competes with social networking and search sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Bing, or Google. “No, Socl is an experimental research project with a minimum set of features that combine social networking and search for the purpose of enabling people to express and share ideas through rich visual collages, organized by interests.” Socl offers users a post creator to help them find interesting images, links, and videos on the web. Choose these, and the post creator assembles them into a collage. You start creating a post by typing in a topic, which effectively tags your post. Users can also add tags to their own posts. Whole groups of posts from various users can fall under “Interest,” which Socl defines as “public groups organized around post content.” Users can visit Interests that relate to, um, their interests, and communicate with other users with the same interest. “Is football a thing? Create your own post about football, tag it, and discuss it with other football fans on Socl,” the site suggests. On Socl, users can also participate in Video Parties. This is a “shared video experience,” Socl explains. Users can join someone else’s video party, or use the site’s interface to collect a list of videos to view with other users and chat about together, in real time. Reactions to Socl have been mixed. A few readers commenting on stories about it (some of whom tried it out) think Microsoft came too late to the social networking field; others simply don’t see why the site exists. A sizable number seem to have missed the point that Socl is an experiment rather than a full-fledged social networking website. Since it puts image search front and center, Socl might indirectly help the software giant to improve this capability in its other products, such as Bing. Those who are interested in the work behind creating Socl and taking it live can check out FUSE Labs’s blog post  on the topic. “For the geeks in the crowd, we’ve built Socl using Typescript which helps us code and experiment more quickly,” Socl notes. The blog post links to the Typescript  website, which describes it as “a language for application-scale JavaScript development. Typescript is a typed superset of JavaScript that compiles to plain JavaScript.” It is open source.