Over the weekend, Microsoft quietly took the wraps off its own fledgling social network, So.Cl, which aims to make searching the web and other research tasks a bit more soaciable. The network claims to be targeted to students who want to search together, but anyone can potentially sign up and try it out.
To sign up, you'll need either a Windows Live login or a Facebook account (though you may be told you're on a waiting list rather than getting immediate access). Once you're logged in, you can add various interests so people searching for topics in those areas will appear in your activity feed, and you can follow any of your Facebook friends already using So.Cl. From there, you can browse additional interests, add them manually, and build out your feed. If you find someone searching for something you're also interested in, you can follow their searches, and they can follow you.
To start sharing searches, just type in a search term at the top of the window -- you'll see standard Bing search results, but your search will also be published to your activity feed, so others can see what you're researching. Ideally -- and perhaps at some point if So.Cl grows -- subject matter experts and others will be able to help you find what you're looking for. If you find something useful, you can share that with your feed as well. You'll also see the typical elements of any social networking service: status updates and often-random links.
Finally, borrowing a page from Google+'s Hangouts, So.Cl has "video parties", where you can start a YouTube video or playlist of videos and invite friends to chat with you while you watch them. Open the party to the public, and anyone can sit in, watch videos, and discuss. I tried this a couple of times, and usually the party was a string of YouTube videos, a few people, and no-one talking.
So.Cl is definitely a young product, and error messages abound when trying to add interests or follow people. There are also no mobile apps to speak of yet -- the design is entirely desktop-centric. Still, it's less than a day old. While it doesn't feel like its purpose is fully defined, and it doesn't do anything that other social networks don't already do, there are still people on it. Have you tried it? What were your first impressions? Let us know in the comments below.