So.cl (pronounced "social") on three college campuses.Microsoft is testing a targeted social network called
So.cl is currently only available to students interested in social media at the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University. The network is built off of Bing's API and, as described by Microsoft, works as "a research experiment for students focused on combining web browsing, search, and social networking for the purposes of learning."
The move is telling in that Microsoft is choosing not to go head-to-head with the big three of Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus in social networking and is instead taking an approach that targets a very specific niche. Other companies like Yammer and SalesForce have also given up on creating big, all-encompassing social networks and are instead focusing on niche and enterprise markets.
So.cl is focussed on collaboration between students and on sharing research. Students can start "video parties" and, like a general social network, content they share is displayed in a news feed. By building off of Bing's search function, the network promises to make it easier for users to connect with students interested in similar topics.
"What we've seen in the last year or two is innovation in the way schools are teaching and learning from students, creating new programs to study how information spreads, motivates learning, and creates expertise," Lili Cheng, manager of Microsoft Research's FUSE Labs, said in a release.
The project was specifically designed using input from students across a wide range of disciplines and plays off the growing trend among colleges and universities to offer social media classes. Cheng noted that Microsoft expects people to continue using their favorite social networks and use So.cl more as a learning tool.