At the end of 2011 college students at the University of Washington, Syracuse University,
and New York University were invited to try out So.cl. Now, just two days ago, Microsoft has
made its experimental search engine So.cl (pronounced “social”) available to the general
So.cl is a free experimental research project, developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs, focused
on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning. So.cl can be used
by the general public, but the target group are learning communities.
The So.cl search experience is powered by Bing. As students work together, they often look
for the same content, and discover new shared interests by sharing results. These results
can be web pages, images, or videos found through Bing.
To encourage interaction and collaboration, So.cl provides rich media sharing, and real time
sharing of videos via “video parties.” Video parties let you search, and quickly assemble a list
of movies to view together with friends. You can view any existing party collection created
by any other So.cl user, or create your own, and easily chat with other So.cl users.
Unless you mark it as “private”, your search results, and any other data you post to
So.cl are broadly available for use by other entities and individuals. So.cl uses Facebook
authentication, which means you use your Facebook account to log in, and your name and
profile picture from Facebook appear in So.cl. That people don’t have to registrate for So.cl
makes them probably more likely use it.
How popular might So.cl become and will it have influence in the way people are searching
for information? First of all, So.cl is not meant to replace existing search and social
networking tools and it will probably be hard for it to get mainstream when everybody is
using Facebook already. Secondly, I don’t think Google has to be worried at all. Even if So.cl
is available to the general public it has been created for learning communities and probably
won’t get any traction outside the education sector.
The question we can’t answer at the moment is if we need So.cl if we have already
Facebook, Twitter & Co. What do you think?