Congrats, Mark Zuckerberg. You went public on Friday, got married on Saturday and now as a special present from part-owner and best partner Microsoft have a new social network to contend with: Microsoft’s So.cl. But don’t worry too much.
I just spotted the news of So.cl going live on Techmeme. This being a Sunday, I wasn’t planning to work. However, I couldn’t help but go in and play around. So here’s a quick rundown on the social network with a triple-handicap: why use it instead of Facebook, instead of Google+ or instead of the new Bing that just added social features.
Share Searches, Discover Interests & Video Hangouts
The home screen promises the ability to share searches, discover new interests and have a video party:
Right there, two out of three of the call-to-actions to use the network seem weak. Share Your Search? Bing itself just pitched that big as a reason to use the relaunched service (see Bing Relaunches, Features New Social Sidebar).
Start A Video Party? You mean like a Google Hangout, which Google has been desperately pitching as a reason to use Google+ over Facebook? Despite that feature, Google still hasn’t been winning marketshare from Facebook.
Discover New Interests? Sounds interesting, perhaps, but will that be enough to make people want to use this in place of or in addition to the many other social networking options out there?
You can sign-up in one of two ways, via Facebook or with your Windows Live account. I choose the Windows Live option, and perhaps that was a mistake. Going that route mean So.cl has no idea who my Facebook friends are (I think), so I didn’t get any suggestions of people I know to follow or invite.
Of course, more of this is probably down to the fact that even if I do have Facebook friends, they aren’t on So.cl yet, so there’s nothing to suggest.
After signing up, I was given the option to follow topics, along with a few people:
The problem was, pushing Follow did nothing. I never could get this page to actually follow the things selected.
After getting past this, you can hit the profile area to do things like adjust privacy settings or set a custom nickname, as shown below:
Selecting that name gives a short URL to your profile that contains the name, like this for me:
Those going to the page from outside Socl only see your picture, no activity you’ve been doing, an option that Facebook, Google and Twitter all allow.
Another option is to set your search provider to Socl:
This makes absolutely no sense to me. Microsoft just did a huge emphasis on how Bing allows social searching two weeks ago. It’s a major feature of the Bing relaunch. Why bring out Socl with a confusing message of sharing searches?
When you go to your feed page, you’re invited to type what you’re interested in:
With the solar eclipse happening today, I entered that to see what would happen:
I took me some time to figure it out, but you click on any of the images or articles that show up in the search that you did on Socl, then you add those to your post. You can do additional searches to effectively have a “Pinterest For Search” as Greg Finn found when he wrote about the Socl preview that went live in December:
Sharing a link was incredibly confusing. It took me five attempts until I got it to work right:
Entering a URL doesn’t automatically add that URL to your post. No, you have to then go and click on elements that are brought up after entering it, such as the story link or images from the story. Actually, it’s kind of cool that you can have Pinterest-style posts like this, after you figure it out. But it’s so different than from sharing on the other services.
Want to share pictures? You can’t. You’re supposed to, I gather, as I learned after posting on Socl about this being missing. But I gather that’s being looked at and perhaps linked to sharing out of a SkyDrive account.
Microsoft Says: Keep Using Bing
That’s going to be it, for now. As I said, I find it confusing about why anyone wants to use this given how many other social networks are out there, much less Microsoft already having baked social sharing into Bing. But one of the creators of Socl Lili Cheng said this when I asked about why I’d use Socl:
You should use Bing ;-) ! We are working closely with the bing folks- we are using socl to experiment with the search + social networking experience from Microsoft Research. You will see other experiments in Socl over time– would love your feedback and thanks for checking out socl.
I guess that So.cl will flow ideas into Bing. But then again, perhaps it could develop into something further. We’ll see. Meanwhile, explore the service now, if you like.
- Microsoft Launches So.cl – A Social Experience For Students
- Bing Relaunches, Features New Social Sidebar
- Head-To-Head: Bing’s Social Search Vs. Google’s Search Plus Your World