We’ve actually been surprisingly in the dark about this one, but Microsoft has decided to let the light in on Socl, its new social network project. Touted as a way to “create your own collage in seconds,” it isn’t super obvious what Socl does.
It looks like Pinterest, functions like Google Plus, and connects with Facebook. To be clear, Socl is not a social network of its own. So what is it?
Microsoft’s Socl is actually a way to bring together content from a multitude of sources and post them, images front and centre, for your world to see. Microsoft’s Fuse Labs is behind the project and General Manager of Fuse Lili Cheng said the idea is to “democratize design and make beautiful posts.”
It’s very simple to get started: you log in with Facebook or your Microsoft account, click a few buttons, and you’ve made a Socl account. From there, you can browse what others are posting about or start your own collage by searching for something in the top left corner. A search will bring up a left-mounted template for you to populate with items, while the right side of the screen will show you content that you can show off in your new collage. There are collages for everything from the NFL to Mathematica to rice crispy treats.
Of course, the search is powered by Bing, which we actually like. Bing handles real queries much better than Yahoo or Google while getting a wider variety of content across multiple sources.
From what we can tell, the issues with Socl are still being worked out, such as the lack of a fully-realized sharing system and an overly-simple user interface. Beyond that, there are surprisingly fleshed out features such as Video Parties which let you sort playlists of videos and chat about them in realtime with people from around the globe. The whole idea is very reminiscent of the Google Wave platform from a few years ago, albeit less functional for the time being.
On the site’s FAQ page, the question arises whether or not Socl is designed to compete with Facebook, Twitter, and other similar sites. Here’s the official response:
No, Socl is an experimental research project with a minimal set of features that combine social networking and search for the purpose of enabling people to express and share ideas through rich visual collages, organized by interests.