So.cl, an experimental research project from Microsoft, that combines social networking and search to promote learning, is now accepting all users interested in joining the site.
But the social networking site, pronounced "social", is not positioned to replace existing full-featured search and social networking tools, and uses a minimal set of features, Microsoft said.
The company expects students will continue to use current social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and search tools such as Bing and Google.
So.cl helps users find and share web pages of interest as students do when they work together, Microsoft said.
Besides providing sharing of media including real-time sharing of videos through "video parties", So.cl also helps users create "rich posts" by assembling montages of visual web content.
Launched as a partnership between the FUSE Labs in Microsoft Research and selected schools, including University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University, So.cl is still positioned as a research project that aims to learn more about social search.
FUSE Labs' So.cl project is shifting away from an invite-only model to accept all users interested in joining the site, said a Microsoft spokeswoman this morning. "So.cl is an experimental research project focused on the future of social experiences and learning, especially among younger people," she added.
So.cl uses Bing for search data via the public API (application programming interface), but is not a Bing product, Microsoft said in a FAQ on the So.cl website.
It uses Facebook authentication, but by default does not post any content from So.cl into the user's Facebook stream, Microsoft said. Unless marked as private, search results, and any other data posted to So.cl can be viewed by all other So.cl users. Data that was publicly posted on So.cl will be broadly available for use by other entities and individuals.
Public data enables new types of research and experimentation, a primary goal for So.cl, Microsoft said.