Microsoft's Tulalip social-search project: Is Socl the new Spindex?

Summary:What is Microsoft's mystery "Tulalip" social/search app? I'm thinking it could be FUSE Labs' Spindex. Here's why.

Someone at Microsoft Research accidentally published to the Web a page about a not-yet-announced project codenamed "Tulalip." Tulalip is believed to be some kind of social/search hybrid application.

Microsoft is engaged in a number of social-search-related projects across the company, and is building out Bing's social-search capabilities. But I'm thinking that Tulalip is something much less ambitious than anything like a Google+ or Facebook.

Search Engine Watch posted text from the Tulalip page before Microsoft took it down. The text on the page said:

This application will be able to:

Read Tweets from your timeline. See who you follow and follow new people. Update your profile. Post Tweets for you.

That's the standard text that Twitter applications use to request user-authorization, making me think Tulalip is a Twitter app or at least an app that accesses Twitter to collect information. Another interesting tidbit from the Tulalip page shows that it is a Cloupapp.net application, which implies that Tulalip is hosted on Windows Azure.

I do not know what Tulalip -- which may end up being branded as Socl.com -- is. But here's my best guess.

One of the groups inside Microsoft Research that is doing a lot of social-computing work is FUSE (Future Social Experiences) Labs. FUSE (which just recently launched its newest project, CompanyCrowd -- a "social newspaper" about companies) has a couple of Twitter-centric projects in testing.

One of these is Spindex, a social-feed aggregator, which includes Twitter data. (The FUSE tout for Spindex includes the same kind of head shots of various people that the Tulalip page does, for what it's worth.)

Spindex was designed to proactively analyze the trends in users' social networks by aggregating inputs from Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds and Bing search results allowing users to share that information easily with friends. The Bing connection might explain the search box that Search Engine Watch noted at the top of the Tulalip page.

Spindex is no longer listed on the "active projects" page for FUSE, but neither is it included on the past projects part of the page. As there's an increasing emphasis at Microsoft to move research projects from experimental to commercial, I wouldn't be surprised to see Spindex surface from its proof-of-concept phase and debut some time very soon.

For all you code-name addicts: Tulalip is the name of a town in Washington state (as well as a name of the local Native American tribe from that area). Microsoft has used a number of Washington towns as codenames, including Quincy, Cashmere and Chelan.

Microsoft isn't commenting on Tulalip/Socl.com beyond telling Search Engine Watch that it was/is “an internal design project from one of Microsoft’s research teams which was mistakenly published to the web.”

Update: After the Tulalip Tribe got wind of Microsoft's codename and expressed concern, the Redmondians apologized and said the company would no longer be using Tulalip as a codename. This isn't the first time a Microsoft codename has raised hackles (Anyone remember Fiji?)

Topics: Microsoft, Social Enterprise

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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