An experimental research project, Socl was developed by Microsoft's FUSE Labs. The site went live a year ago, in December 2011, and was open only to students. Then, in May of this year, Microsoft extended availability to testers in the general public. Today, Microsoft announced the public beta of So.cl, opening up the service to any and all who wish to give it a try.
The announcement comes with an interface redesign that includes improved presentation of posts, a more refined interest gallery that should make it easier for you to socialize with like-minded people, more ways to find and follow people, and the ability to create a playlist and watch videos with others in Socl.
Though it's definitely a social product, Microsoft isn't looking to take on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ with So.cl. In the past, Microsoft has described Socl as "an experimental research project focused on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning." Users find and share interesting web pages with their networks as well as sharing 'rich posts' with montages of content.
So, how does it work? Searches are conducted through So.cl, which is powered by Bing, and results can then be arranged into collages and shared with other Socl users. Explaining the product and its applications in a learning environment, Microsoft last year explained that as students work together, they often search for the same items and discover shared interests by sharing links.
"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 automatically sharing links as you search," the company said.
Users are able to take links and images from around the web to create a 'rich post' or montage of information, as well as host video parties. Video parties allow users to make a playlist of videos to be watched as a group.