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What is so.cl and what does it mean?

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 21st May 2012

Another day, another social network.

With Apple and Google both trying to get in on the social act over the last few years, Microsoft clearly felt as though it was missing out. So, without further delay, meet so.cl (pronounced ‘social’ – see what they did there?)

Microsoft has (perhaps naively, perhaps cleverly) done everything it can to keep this on the down-low. So let’s examine what it is and what it means for social media, tech PR and the universe…

So what is so.cl?

Hot on the tails of the Facebook IPO, Microsoft’s social offering looks, at first glance, very much like Google+ (not a great start you might think!) But, the more you play with it, the more differences crop up.

The tagline is ‘Learn & Share’ and the landing page advertises three key use cases:

  • Share your search
  • Discover new interests
  • Start a video party

The first one sounds a bit scary and the other two seem to mirror Google+ features.

You can sign-up with a Windows Live account or Facebook and this will prompt you to ‘follow’ a list of friends that have already signed up and/or some ‘interests’. Once sign-up is complete, you then get a user interface that looks very much like Google+ with much of the functionality (following, profiles etc.) that you would expect from any network.

The search box at the top seems to be the main call to action. You can send messages from this box too, but it isn’t the default. Entering a search term then brings up a standard looking list of results. This is ‘powered by Bing’ but doesn’t look like Bing so the conflict between so.cl and Microsoft’s search engine is potentially an interesting one.

So, at a first glance, it is very hard to see why I would use this a) over another social network and b) over Bing – a search engine that Microsoft has been pushing a lot recently and which also rolled out social search the other week.

What does it mean?

Good question! Google+ gets a hard time, but the idea of Google+ being a social layer throughout Google products still makes sense to me and I think it will come good in its own way, even if it doesn’t have the immediately apparent success of something like Facebook (I don’t think this was ever the objective btw).

So.cl is more confusing however. It doesn’t seem to integrate (yet) with other Microsoft products and the conflict with Bing – mentioned above – is confusing. If I want to find out information, why not just use Bing? If I want to socialise with friends, why not just use Facebook? This doesn’t – on first glance – seem to add anything new.

And what about mobile? This is clearly the main frontier at the moment and Microsoft has its own interests here. The look and feel of so.cl clearly nods to its Metro design language.  As of yet there doesn’t seem to be a mobile element, but that might well change.

Microsoft has called this network ‘experimental’, so let’s try not to judge too soon. However, if other failed social networks are anything to go by, the initial reaction is often hard to shake off…

Verdict: give it a go, but don’t put too much resource in at present…