Facebook’s IPO isn’t the only thing happening in social media. Microsoft has finally launched its experimental  social network, So.cl. The company released details about the network back in December after accidentally leaking the homepage a few months earlier. So.cl is live. Why should anyone care?

More So.cl

If you missed the launch of So.cl, you’re not alone. There was no viral video, flashy roll out or celebrity laden party. Microsoft quietly released So.cl over the weekend. Yes, the same weekend that other social network went public.

So.cl was developed by a small research team within Microsoft, FUSE Labs. The new network targets students and infuses search with a social layer.

Honestly, calling So.cl a social network is a bit of a stretch. Yes, the network allows users to chat and connect with other users, but the real focus of So.cl is search, specifically Bing. Users search for a topic, select their favorite results and So.cl compiles it into a single post. Microsoft refers to the network as “open search,” because anything that users search for is visible to other users and third party developers.

The network also has a number of other peripheral features like video parties, which allow users to watch videos together and comment in real-time and interest, that allow users to group content under a common subject area. The remaining functions are your typical social networking goods like feeds, comments profiles and messaging. Although Microsoft has said they are targeting students with the site, registration is open to everyone.

What Next?

So.cl is not competing with existing social networks. In fact, to sign up for the service, users can use a Facebook or Microsoft Live account. Microsoft's effort with So.cl will provide the company volumes of contextual data about how real users use search, which could significantly improve the quality of Bing's search results.

It is unclear how successful the effort will be. It's more likely that the technology will eventually deeply integrate into Bing. Influencing search by social results, haven't I heard of that someone before?