Socl (pronounced “social”…) is a research project from Microsoft Research FUSE Labs. It began as a social media experiment targeted at students for the purpose of learning. Socl claims that it has now evolved to be a service where people connect over shared interested expressed primarily through photos. People compare it to Pinterest, but I don’t think that’s quite right – it’s more of a moodboard generator. It has been in private beta test mode for a year, was given a low-key launch in May and now it has opened up to the wider public, so anyone with a Facebook account can sign up.
I’ve had a play, and it is very clearly still in beta mode – Microsoft freely admit this. A lot of things are confusing, obscure, perverse or ill-explained. I nearly gave up in frustration very quickly. However, after a little perseverance I found an amazingly close-knit community and a lot of potential. I had some fun creating a few boards, which you’re welcome to have a look at here. Immediately after posting, I had quite a few random people liking, following and sending me messages. There aren’t many people using it, but they’re definitely keen,
I don’t actually think Socl will take off. People are too overwhelmed by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram (maybe not), etc… Amusingly, Socl even allows you to connect your profile to nearly all of these. However, I do think it’s a very interesting experiment for several reasons.
People have been talking about social search for so long. People have been waiting for social search to take off. Facebook looked like it was heading in that direction, but seem to have lost interest. Socl – obviously – is powered by Bing. And it works well. It feels like what I always thought social search should be, and I hope everyone else is making notes. I’m interested to know what, if anything, the SEO community thinks of it – in theory, the amount of links it generates should be great for them, but I don’t know how much attention Google will pay to this.
It could also potentially be brilliant for content creation. The posts I created literally took me a few minutes each. Uploading your own content is currently an imperfect process, but it is extremely easy to curate other people’s content. Part of me likes the idea of using it to create these pretty moodboards, that can then easily be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Even if we never actually published the post, the act of creating one could help to come across some useful articles and photos.
I don’t think we should have an active presence there. I don’t know if it will take off, or if it will just fizzle and die. But I like it.