Micosoft has made its new Bing-powered learning network So.cl public. Here’s a quick run down of what the site is all about.
What is So.cl?
According to Microsoft, So.cl is “an experiment in open search” that’s focused on “exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning.” So.cl uses Microsoft’s public Bing API, so you’ll get very similar results as you do through Bing search. Launched in December and aimed at students, the website is now accessible to all.
How does it work?
To access So.cl, you can opt to sign up through your Windows Live ID or Facebook. Once you’re in, So.cl will show you any of your Windows Live connections or Facebook friends that currently are on the site and let you follow them. The site will also suggest other subjects to follow, ranging from music to startups to popular people. After you’ve chosen who and what you want to follow, So.cl populates your Feed with all of the applicable posts. You can also choose to view everything that’s being posted to So.cl.
What makes it unique?
Number 1, your searches are public. Each user’s post represents a search he or she conducted through the So.cl search bar.
Number 2, So.cl lets you curate your post so that it includes only the most useful search results. Let’s say you want to research the history of San Francisco. You enter “San Francisco history” into So.cl’s search bar, but after clicking through the first five to ten links, you realize that only two are useful. You can remove the other links from your post, and leave only the helpful links.
Number 3, So.cl includes a “riff” features that allows you to conduct the same search as that user, and a “tag” feature that lets you tag your posts and other users’ posts with specific interests. For example, a “pancakes” search could be tagged as “food.”
What makes it the same?
Like on other social networks, you can like, comment and share a user’s post. It has a cover image a la Facebook Timeline and Google+ and a Feed that consists of public posts from other users. Your So.cl profile is also fairly standard. It lists your name and uses your Windows Live or Facebook profile picture, shows you recent activity and lets people comment on your posts or leave you a message.
Is it a Facebook/Google+/Twitter competitor?
Not at all. Microsoft clearly considers So.cl a learning platform and not a social network. Although that makes the decision to call the platform So.cl (pronounced “social” a strange one). Unlike Facebook, So.cl isn’t a place to connect with friends and share personal moments from your lives. It’s more like an image board where you post and share web-based content based on general interest categories such as cars, movies, and sports all of which is filtered through a built-in Bing search tool and made public.
The take away?
So far, early adopters are hardly raving about So.cl. They say the interface is cluttered and the content curation does not live up to the site’s ideals. So.cl is still very much an experiment. It provides insight into what people are searching for and finding on the internet. While this is helpful for that specific research aim it is not helpful for people who want a search engine to find what they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible. If your life is already cluttered with social networks, you might want to skip this one for now.