Speculation began to mount that the software giant was getting ready to launch its own social-networking effort after it accidentally published Web site called Socl.com earlier this year. The site, which was found to be a Microsoft project, was described as a "social search" service that would allow users to "find what you need and share what you know."
The service offered Facebook and Twitter sign-in buttons, but little else was known about Socl.com. Microsoft soon took the site down, saying it was "an internal design project from one of Microsoft's research teams which was mistakenly published to the Web."
Now, we have a clearer picture of Socl thanks to The Verve, which recently got an exclusive look at the service. The site, which is still in private beta testing and may never be released publicly, "mixes search, discovery, and, go figure, a social network," the blog reported.
Socl offers a basic three-column layout that is reminiscent of Facebook's design, with navigation tools to the left, a social feed in the center, and invites and other options to the right. Central to the experience is a pseudo status box at the top of the page that asks users "What are you searching for?" Search functionality would presumably be provided by Bing, Microsoft's search engine.
The site relies heavily on tagging, allowing users to identify topics they are interested in and receive social updates on those interests. However, The Verve contends that Socl's approach isn't much of an improvement over Google's saved searches function.
Socl also touts a video party feature that allows users to chat and view YouTube videos with their friends.
While the site is intended to get people interacting more with each other based on their search queries, there is not much in the way of private interaction with other users, such as messaging or @replies. It's unknown when or if Socl will be rolled out publicly.
Microsoft already relies heavily on its partnership with social network giant, Facebook. In May, Microsoft unveiled a new feature to its Bing search engine, baking in recommendations from a Web surfer's Facebook friends in order to make the results more relevant.