Microsoft opens up picture networking site

First published in December 2012

SOCL

NEWS-BITE | Digital | Social Media: Microsoft has stepped up its efforts in the social networking space by moving its Socl service into public beta. The IT giant first previewed the digital platform to US students a year ago, and opened a pilot version to more users in early Summer, but this week the service was refreshed and made available to all.

Created by Microsoft’s Fuse Labs, like most of the rapidly growing social networks of the moment, Socl is very much based around photography. Users are encouraged to make photo collages around key terms or topics, pulling in imagery and videos via Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Socl collages then link back to the original sources of any included materials.

Other users can comment on, like or tag collages they browse, and can “riff” off other user’s work too, which basically means creating their own picture collections based around the same theme. The image curation nature of the Microsoft service makes comparisons with Pinterest inevitable, though Socl does encourage users to more tightly constrain the pictures they select around a given theme. Whether that’s a strength or weakness is debateable.

A spokesman for the new service told VentureBeat: “Socl helps people find and share interesting web pages by extending the search metaphor, create rich posts by assembling montages of visual web content and provides rich media sharing and real time sharing of videos. We encourage users to reimagine how everyday communication and learning tools can be improved by researching, learning, and sharing in their everyday lives”.

Of course the question for social media experts in the PR sector, who have been busy getting to grips with Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram this year as picture-led social networking saw particular growth, is this: is Socl something worth investigating from a brand point of view? Big tech companies have generally failed to succeed in the social networking space – the jury is still very much out on Google+ – so it’s far from assured that Socl will last the distance. So, probably only one for the real early adopters for the time being.

Elsewhere in the world of social media, some in the music and entertainment industry have been given beta invites to play with the all new look MySpace, set to relaunch as a music-led social network in 2013.