An experimental research project, So.cl was developed by Microsoft's FUSE Labs. Up until yesterday it was only available to students, but the site has been live since December. This past weekend, Microsoft extended availability to the general public.
Though it's definitely a social product, Microsoft isn't looking to take on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ with So.cl. Instead, the company is hoping to do something completely different. Microsoft describes So.cl as "an experimental research project focused on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning." Users find and share interesting web pages with their networks as well as sharing 'rich posts' with montages of content. While the site can be used by the general public, Microsoft is targeting learning communities with this.
So how does it all work? Redmond says searches conducted through So.cl, which is powered by Bing, will be shared publicly by default:
"As students work together, they often search for the same items, and discover new shared interests by sharing links," the site reads. "We see this trend today on many social networks, such as Twitter, where shared links spread virally and amplify popular content. So.cl experiments with this concept by automatically sharing links as you search."
Additionally, users will be able to take links and images from around the web to create a 'rich post' or montage of information, as well as host video parties. Video parties allow users to make a playlist of videos to be watched as a group.
On the issue of privacy and who can see your search data, Microsoft says all of your search results and any other data posted to So.cl may be viewed by other users unless you mark it as private. Similarly, Microsoft will make publicly posted data 'broadly available' for use by third parties.
Signing into So.cl is done via Facebook or Windows Live. You can check it out here.