Microsoft has opened to the public Socl, the company’s experiment in mixing search and social networking.
The site — which can be accessed at www.so.cl — was originally designed for students and open by invitation only. Back then, the company said Socl was “designed to give students the ability to network with peers, share useful information quickly, and build their own pages that collect information from both inside and outside the classroom–in a sense, transforming the web and social networks into the new classroom.”
The site now includes more rapid viewing and creation of posts, easier people- and interest-finding, and virtual “parties” where users can create playlists to watch videos and chat together, according to a Microsoft blog post.
Update 5:15 p.m.: After playing around on Socl for a bit, I called MIcrosoft to ask about its purpose.
Lili Cheng, general manager of Microsoft’s Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, spoke with me. (FUSE Labs focuses on research, software and services related to social connectivity.)
FUSE Labs is still regarding Socl as an experiment in “how we can better bring the web into your social experiences,” Cheng said.
It’s not intended to be a completely new search engine or a completely new social network to replace the ones you use.
Rather, Microsoft researchers are trying to think about search in different ways — less of a solo experience, more of an expressive, social act.
“When you think of search, you think of the links – the UI (user interface) you’re used to,” Cheng said. “You just never think of being able to use it to create” things such as collages (which is the main form of posts on Socl).
“We have this thing in social called riffing,” she said. “Riffing comes from jazz music, where you can pick up on someone’s song and play your own variation.”
Similarly, on the web, people search for stuff they’re interested in, go off on a tangent, come back, share some links — “they go on a weave,” Cheng said. “We’ve tried to embrace the notion of riffing.”
(Screenshot of Socl at www.so.cl)