Microsoft has pulled So.cl - its hybrid social network, Pinterest board, and search engine - out of beta. This hasn't made the service any less confusing but don't worry, it's not as if Microsoft has grand aims to pull you from the social services into which you're already hooked. So.cl, or "social," is designed to explore "the possibilities of social search for the purposes of learning.""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 reimagine how our everyday communication and learning tools can be improved, by researching, learning and sharing in their everyday lives," according to a FAQ on Microsoft's So.cl page.
So how does it work? The service is kind of like having a big Pinterest board for your searches. When you type a query into So.cl's top navigation bar, you're presented with a huge list of information and pictures relevant to your search. But there's a big Catch-22: When you search, you gain the ability to tag ("pin," really) information and pictures to a post that you create on your home profile. Searching also pulls up related posts that others have made, as well as the content they've found valuable enough to "pin."
Got it? You search, you pin, and you see what everyone else has pinned based on a similar search.
"As students work together, they often look for the same content, and discover new shared interests by sharing results. These results can be web pages, images, or videos found through Bing," Microsoft wrote. "We see this trend today on many social networks, such as Twitter, where shared links spread virally and amplify popular content. So.cl experiments with this concept by letting you easily share links as you search."
So.cl's neatest feature, by far, is its "video parties" option, which allows users to create a slideshow of-sorts using videos instead of still images. The videos play in sequential order, and fellow party-watchers are free to add new videos to the mix and discuss what they're watching in the included chat window. They can also promote videos that they want to appear next in the playlist, as well as skip videos that aren't all that interesting or appealing.Microsoft's new service was initially available to just the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University.