Microsoft quietly launched so.cl (Pronounced “Social”) yesterday. Developed by Microsoft’s FUSE labs, it is focused on exploring the possibilities of social search.
So.cl is a combination of social networking & search. At it’s heart is social connectivity with like minded people that is topically driven. It combines elements of Google+, Facebook & Pinterest with the underlying goal to further integrate social with search.
With So.cl you can share your searches & help others discover what they might be looking for by aggregating content into topical categories. Many social elements are taken from existing networks. Video Parties are similar to Google+ hangouts. The all too familiar activity stream drives relevant content directly to the user. So.cl also features visually driven topics similar to Pinterest, but the core differentiator is that the content is primarily driven off of a users search results.
So.cl claims that it is an experiment in open search, meaning your searches on So.cl are viewable by other So.cl users and also available to third parties, assuming for relevance & targeted topical advertising. There is the possibility though that this experiment becomes the basis of Microsoft & Facebook’s social search strategy.
Google+ took the first major step in driving connectivity via social search, with the search giant owning 83% of organic search traffic, launching a socially enabled network that also extends via search via the “+1″ as well as Google+ direct connect shows how the future of social will become synonymous with search.
You cannot talk about social without referencing Facebook. Facebook’s platform is like a walled garden when it comes to relevant/topical searching outside of Facebook. The “Like” button has become ubiquitous throughout the web, but when it comes to amplifying and connecting via traditional search Facebook is lagging behind Google.
With their recent partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and so.cl built on Bing API’s, so.cl focuses heavily on discoverability associated with “open search”, this may be the next step in amplifying Facebook topical activity.
So.cl features social sign on with both Facebook & Windows Live ID, which sets the stage for deeper integration into the social graph. One interesting observation when you authenticate via Facebook is that of the 180 data points that can be mined, so.cl only wants your basic info, e-mail & group data. The groups option really peaked my interest as to how they are going to use this data.
One of the interesting options buried in the settings is the ability to set your primary search provider to So.cl to publicly share your posts. So.cl is powered by Bing’s API’s but is branded So.cl.
Similar to Pinterest’s Pin it option, So.cl also deploys a bookmarklet option, essentially providing a quick and easy option to share any web item directly into your so.cl stream.
One key difference from Pinterest is that So.cl allows users to create “Rich Posts” where users can combine interesting images and links on the web and assemble them automatically into a compelling visual montage.
What does So.cl mean for brands? At this point So.cl is still a “research project” and is not designed to take the place of full-featured search & social networking tools, but this project could lead to the future of social + search integration as it pertains to Bing & Facebook. This also provides insight into the coming convergence of search + social.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360