Microsoft has officially unveiled So.cl, and contrary to Facebook-challenger expectations it's a hybrid system pulling together social networking and search and targeted at students. Found at so.cl, the new tool allows "montages of visual web content" including photos, video and text to be constructed and shared for collaborative editing and discussion, as well as "video parties" for real-time conversation.
Students are expected to build communities with similar research goals, and Microsoft is targeting those on social media courses who may lack the collaborative tools that other disciplines have. "So.cl might even give students the ability to create their own social tool," Microsoft suggests, "customized for their own community."
Searches through So.cl are automatically shared for public consumption, allowing others to chime in with their own thoughts. Facebook login is used for authentication, but content isn't automatically shared to the social network, at least by default.
"The So.cl search experience is powered by Bing; we use the public Bing APIs to display search result data. 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
Rather than throwing it open to the public, Microsoft is currently limiting So.cl to a select number of schools. That starts with students in information and design schools at the University of Washington, Syracuse University and New York University, with others on the roadmap. However, it's unclear what plans - if any - there are for general availability.