Microsoft has now entered the social space market with “Socl” (which they wish you to pronounce “social”).
Coming so late to the party you’d hope that they would offer something a little different and they have. Socl revolves around search and that’s certainly a new approach.
To create a post you enter a topic and you are presented with a number of images and links courtesy of Bing which you then assemble into a collage adding a bit of text. The end result looks a little like Pinterest.
This is social search. It would be an interesting idea if executed well but I fear Microsoft have dropped the ball badly.
The first problem I encountered was finding people to follow. Socl gives me no way of finding my Facebook friends on Socl, nor can I find the people I follow on Twitter or the people in my contact list.
So that leaves me wandering around attempting to find people who share my interests. That might be good but it raises the question of why I should bother.
Socl doesn’t allow someone to do much value adding. Why should I follow Joe Blow if he is just making collages from exactly the same search results as me without actually adding anything? Joe Blow has no opportunity to even give a caption to the images or a note on the links he assembles into his collage let alone add his own images or links to those found by Bing. You can’t even do a second search and keep adding from that.
One of the joys of the social net is that you can find people with the skill to curate information in a field you are interested in, Socl doesn’t allow these people to easily do their work.
The other problem is scale. I don’t know if everyone is having the same problem but Socl has now started to load slowly. Indeed this evening I’m just getting the page head and nothing else. It leaves me wondering if Microsoft are going to have the same problems on the web as Apple did.
While I have to admit to bashing Microsoft over the years I hope that they succeed with Socl just as I hope Google Plus works out for Google. The space of possible social net applications has yet to be fully explored and social search is a great idea, I just fear that despite months in beta before this public release Microsoft have not quite found the right mix.
Socl might surprise me, it may well find an audience, after all who could have predicted Pinterest would find one so large. Have you given it a try yet? What do you think?