While the tech world was watching as Facebook floated on the stock market, Microsoft Research launched what it calls its "experimental" social networking site.
It's called So.cl (and pronounced "Social") and, according to VentureBeat.com, was being tested out by students studying information and design at the University of Washington, Syracuse University and New York University.
Although it is now open to all, it is still being promoted mainly as a search and sharing tool for those in education. It appears to combine elements of GooglePLUS, Facebook, Twitter, Storify and Pinterest.
You can sign in with a Windows Live ID or a Facebook account. Users compile related content, including video, on a given subject into one post and share that among their peers.
According to the So.cl FAQ it "combines social networking and search, to help people find and share interesting web pages in the way students do when they work together."
Rather ominously So.cl is also described as "an experiment in open search. That means your searches on So.cl are viewable by other So.cl users and will also be available to third parties."
There are options to follow other So.cl users or follow certain interests like food, films and art. As with various social media and social bookmarking sites, you can install a “Share on So.cl” bookmarklet to your browser. It also interconnects with Microsoft's Bing and its social search feature.
The project was developed by the FUSE Labs division within Microsoft. Given how GooglePLUS has been slow to filter into the public consciousness, despite the might of the search giant behind it, Microsoft could find it equally challenging to gain traction. There are worthwhile niche alternatives to Facebook, such as Diaspora, but the obvious downside of any new social networking site is that it's not much use if few of the people you know are actually on there.
Via Venture Beat