Microsoft opens its Socl social-search site to any and all testers

Microsoft opens its Socl social-search site to any and all testers

Summary: Microsoft is opening up its Socl social-networking research project. There are still no public plans as to when, how and if Microsoft will take Socl commercial.


On December 4, Microsoft's FuSE team took the wraps off the redesigned user experience of its Socl social-search project and opening up the beta to anyone who wants to test drive it.


Microsoft first went public with the Socl project in December 2011. Originally available to invited testers only, Microsoft social network has been in testing primarily among Microsoft employees and students in information and design schools at a few universities.

Microsoft officials have described Socl as a kind of mash-up of social-networking and search that is designed to get the learning communities to start thinking about how to use collaboration technologies in new ways. And according to the Softies and contrary to popular rumors, Socl is not an attempt to take on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler or Pinterest.

Socl combined ideas the FUSE Labs teams have pioneered in some of their other experimental projects, like Montage (a photo collage app) and Kodu (game programming). Microsoft built Socl using TypeScript, its superset of JavaScript.

"The way people were using Socl was different than we designed it," said Lili Cheng, General Manager of FuSE (Future Social Experiences) Labs. "Our idea is to democratize design and make beautiful posts."

Socl brings image search to prominence. A new navigation bar helps users create posts more simply and to find elements like common interest pages. (An image of the redesigned Socl site, provided by Microsoft, is embedded above in this post.) Users can create "parties," where participants can create playlists, watch videos and chat together from inside the site.

Cheng said that in the past year, the target audience for Socl broadened beyond university students. That said, Microsoft is not making a concerted effort to target Socl at new or different demographics. Socl is still a research project with no public timetable as to when or if Microsoft will attempt to commercialize it in its entirety or piece parts.

"Search for most people is still mostly about the blue links. Images are secondary," Cheng said. Socl reverses the priorities. And one result is people who speak different languages find they can still communicate, Cheng said.

Speaking of blue, here's my first attempt at going Socl:


(And yes, the wig is from my disguise bag. In case you were wondering.)

To try out the new update, users should go to and authenticate with Facebook or Microsoft ID.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I don't understand what it does or what it's for...

    I tried this a few months ago, but couldn't figure out what it was or what to use it for. It just seemed like random photo posts by strangers. Pretty chaos.

    Maybe Microsoft should just create a real social site and do what they really want to do--take on Facebook & Twitter. ;)
  • hmmm

    Looks neat!
  • I have it open right now

    I have to ask what the point is, though.
    Michael Alan Goff
  • Twitter With More Photos

    I find it to be a more visual Twitter with much easier ways to link to information...kind of nifty...
  • no thanks

    imho, microsoft is a day late and a dollar short.
  • It may end up in beta itself

    Although, ending up in beta it-self is an exaggeration, it did not feel anything appealing.
    It seems like a makeover and mixture of Twitter and Reddit.
    This can be microsoft's another futile attempt to hold the internet.
  • I can see the commercial launch ads now....

    Much like the not-so tongue-in-cheek ad created by Nokia and AT&T. Trying to drum up interest in the new Lumia 900 Windows Phone. The ad starts off by calling other smartphone users beta testers and proclaiming that all other smartphones look alike.

    "If you've ever Tweeted you are a Beta Tweeter"

    Win8 Live Tiles coming soon...
  • pinterest for more people

    Just signed up and to me it seems similar to pinterest. Will need to explore a bit more but i have a feeling there's a greater possibility of me getting this than pinterest. :)
  • Another Network - [[gheez]] Instragram-ish. I like it though!