During the past weekend there were some interesting news from the social networking industry. No, I’m not talking about Facebook’s big day. Neither about Mark’s new status. I’m talking about a new social network backed by one of the biggest companies in the world that is now open for all.
Yep, the headline isn’t lying, Microsoft is taking its social networking project So.cl out of beta and makes it available for the general public.
However, So.cl is not designated to compete with other social networks but, as Microsoft defines, it is “an experimental research project” which supposedly assists “exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning”. Does anybody else also find it hard to swallow this definition?
But before speculating what great strategic masterplan stands behind this project, let’s go over some of it main features.
(Clumsy) Search Results Sharing
The most fundamental social attribute of So.cl is the possibility to share search queries from Bing. At the top of the page, there’s a “What are you interested in?” search box. When searching in it for something, Bing search results appears and each result can be added to a post for sharing.
Because Microsoft is basically basing everything in So.cl around the social-search integration, I’ve been expecting for some friendly sharing interface. But it’s not. The results that comes up are and the sharing mechanism are, how shall I put this gently…? Shitty?
The first search results that displayed after making a search are just a few images and one link. Yes ladies and gentlemen, just ONE link. In order to find more results you would have to refine your search on the left side of the page (web, news, images, videos, etc).
If the folks at Microsoft wants that people will share search results then they have to show the people, well, search results… Or is it too much to ask? Besides, didn’t Microsoft didn’t just launched new interface for Bing which includes social features?
The social integration in the new Bing seems pretty awesome and it is essentially makes So.cl’s main (and unfriendly) feature redundant.
Microsoft Doesn’t Know How To (Video) Party
What appears to be another central feature is “Video parties”. It is allowing to search for videos from the web, play them and discuss about them with friends while they roll. Sounds familiar? That’s because it’s resembles for Google+ Hangout. Only it’s worse. Much worse.
Unlike Hangout, the sharing possibilities in So.cl’s video parties are very limited and the video player itself is one of the poorest there are online. I mean, you can’t scroll the video forward or background and there isn’t any volume button (only mute) which made me immediately close it the first time I started a “video party”.
Only after I lowered the volume on my own computer’s preferences I dared to enter this feature again, which still offered me a lousy experience. So if you want to share and discuss about videos online, go to Google+. Or to Facebook. Or to Twitter. Or to any other social network out there.
I think that Microsoft arrived VERY LATE to the social networking party. It would be tremendously difficult to compete against traditional and already established social networks. Even Google+, which is a much better social platform than So.cl, still struggling since its launch last year.
And if So.cl isn’t competing against traditional social networks, it should have brought something amazing and unique which will allure people to join, the same as Pinterest did for photo-sharing for instance. Currently, it doesn’t manages to do so.
Zuck, you can relax and enjoy the beginning of your marriage because at least from Microsoft side you don’t really have any threat.