Why we think it’s not too late for So.Cl


Did anybody try the social platform launched by Microsoft Research Labs?

When they announced So.cl was about to be launched – as an evolution of the Tulalip project – many people expressed their delusion about its features. A few days ago Fuse Labs told me that the platform was opened to the public, and I decided to give it a try. So I created an account and started exploring it.

First of all, there’s something no one has been clear about: So.Cl has been developed by Microsoft Research Labs – not by Microsoft corporate.  And most importantly: it is NOT an attempt to challenge Facebook. At least that’s what I believe.

Why? Because in order to get in you have to go through Facebook Connect, and every avatar has “John Doe on Facebook” well visible under the profile picture. Let’s not forget that in 2007 Microsoft bought 1,6% of Facebook.

What is So.Cl? That how its creators explain the idea:

So.cl (pronounced “social”) is an experimental research project, developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs, focused on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning. So.cl combines social networking and search, to help people find and share interesting web pages in the way students do when they work together.

So.cl helps you create rich posts, by assembling montages of visual web content. To encourage interaction and collaboration, So.cl provides rich media sharing, and real time sharing of videos via “video parties.”

We expect students to continue using products such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other existing social networks, as well as Bing, Google and other search tools. We hope to encourage students to re-imagine how our everyday communication and learning tools can be improved, by researching, learning and sharing in their everyday lives”.

It seems to be an attempt to give a very entertainment-oriented experience, enriching media consumption with folksonomic features such as the crowdsourced tagging of every content shared on the platform (which has been recently improved).

My impression is that the ultimate goal is to map behaviors and habits of users on an online environment. That’s why all the comparisons between Facebook or G+ are quite reductive.

In the basic dynamics we can see many aspects that are similar to the ones of other social networks: there is a main newsfeed, a column on the left to manage Facebook-alike activities and a column on the right dedicated to video contents (a bit like what yo can find on G+).

microsoft social network

But there are some differences that represent the real value of So.Cl:

  • You can partecipate to (and create) video parties. They consist in watching a video together with other users and comment it. There’s a ranking of the most popular videos and the possibility to aggregate different videos around a specific subject. The result is a social fruition – you can get to know other people watching the same content – and a mapping of the video-related interests of users. Considering how many people are watching videos online… I find this interesting. Plus, I deal with Social TV: how could I not like it?
  • The question on the status-bar is: “What are you interested in?”. There are two main activities you can do – sharing them with everyone or just with your contacts: you can update your personal status or do a research. And the latter is definitely interesting: users can share the results of the research and integrate them in their status update. Here’s the result after typing in the query “TV series”: 


  • The bar under the status update box shows an animation that represent the result of researches other users did, again focusing on media contents:


The attention to users’ feedbacks is very high: here’s my first status, with the prompt response from Jim Lewallen, program manager at Fuse Labs:


I am a researcher, and as a researcher I can state that Microsoft did a good job. In the meanwhile, I’m waiting for the next features (I foresee an integration with Skype…). What do you think about it?

Emanuela Zaccone



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