In an already over-crowded social space, can Microsoft’s new social platform, So.cl, really have the chance to shine? Even my co-worker commented that Microsoft just seem “too far behind these days.” I’m quite sure many of us think that. However, how many of you still use PCs or prefer Windows to iOS? In this ever increasing battle of Samsung vs. Apple and Facebook vs. Google+, will Microsoft’s So.cl wriggle itself in there and be noticed?
Launched out of beta in mid-May, So.cl had spent the latter part of last year being tested by a handful of students at select universities. Considered “Pinterest-like” in the sense that users can create “boards”, So.cl was developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs to encourage collaboration and enhance social search for research purposes. Therefore, what better ways to test it than by letting students use it, right?
Just another Social Network
Already compared to Facebook’s origins, in that So.cl is only intended for college students right now (and “right now” most likely meaning let’s not put a cap on it!), and a whole host of existing sites, Microsoft were quick to assert that So.cl is not meant to compete and replace such sites as Facebook, Twitter and search engines, but to create a community to share for academic purposes,
“We expect students to continue using products such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other existing social networks, as well as Bing, Google and other search tools…We hope to encourage students to re-imagine how our everyday communication and learning tools can be improved, by researching, learning and sharing in their everyday lives.”
The current So.cl model, which resembles many of the current traits seen on existing social platforms, lets you create and share posts, based mainly on Internet searches, and has many standard features that have become characteristic of social platforms such as sharing text, photos and videos. It’s intuitive, has an easy to navigate platform, allows you to follow others, set up feeds and search popular trending topics. The streamlined news feed, with its ultra-white minimalist design has a Google+ feel about it too.
What’s different then?
With all this borrowing from existing social platforms, does So.cl differentiate itself in any way? The answer to that is yes. So.cl engages their audience with the “viewing parties” feature. If you are watching a video, regardless of what it is, other users can pop in and out of chat rooms that play video footage and have a discussion.
Another feature is that So.cl showcases profiles from users in the community and lets you view their interests and topics that they’re passionate about via pictures, for example their favorite clothing and bands. This allows members (A-la–Pinterest) to then connect with new people based on these topics and interests. Unfortunately, because So.cl is an open community, you might be exposed to some rather unnerving and graphic images. To combat this you have the right to un-follow users and set restrictions too.
To access So.cl you can sign in via Facebook or Windows Live. The great news is though, is that it won’t automatically post your searches, comments, likes, etc to Facebook unless you give So.cl the permission to do so. However, be wary that every search you do is public, unless you specify via its search bar that you want restrictions and at the moment you can’t limit searches to those who you follow. So.cl will then, I’m sure, have to create and update their privacy options in the near future.
Will it last?
I’m sure we can all agree that So.cl is a mixture of all the things we love and find useful about our current plethora of social media platforms. I personally use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but do I really need another social platform to share my interests on? Honestly, no. That’s why I haven’t personally bothered with Google+.
I know So.cl is aimed at students (“right now”) but I’m quite confident Microsoft will want to one day sit side-by-side Facebook and the other social platform powerhouses and be noticed. However, when you think about it how many university or college students will want to spend time searching and sharing on So.cl when they already have Google, Facebook and Twitter to do it on?
So.cl might claim it is “A new research experience for students” but how new of an experience is any social media platform these days?