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Microsoft launches new social network – but it’s not competing with Facebook

Engel Schmidl /

Microsoft has finally given in to temptation, joining fellow tech giants Facebook and Google in creating its own social network tied into its Bing search engine, although early analysts suggest it’s not even meant to compete in the same category.

The software giant announced its new So.cl site overnight, with the product squarely aimed at students. The centre of the product is searching – students can search for whatever they like and then share information and media found through these search items.

As a result, research group Ovum says Microsoft isn’t even trying to compete with Facebook and Google+, instead offering a completely different product.

“The fact that So.cl is targeted at students echoes Facebook’s beginnings and has made many assume it is a Facebook clone. But So.cl is, as Microsoft stresses, an experiment and designed to be layer on existing social networks,” Ovum principal analyst Eden Zoller said.

“Microsoft is being sensible in positioning So.cl in this way. The opposite approach of Google – which entered social networking all guns blazing with a full-on service – is having modest success.”

Bing powers the product, with “little value add beyond this” and nowhere near the same features offered as on Facebook or Google+.

Microsoft says it doesn’t want students to stop using these other services.

“We expect students to continue using products such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other existing social networks, as well as Bing, Google and other search tools,” it said on the network’s website.

“We hope to encourage students to reimagine how our everyday communication and learning tools can be improved, by researching, learning and sharing in their everyday lives.”

The ability to share media found through searches is similar to the type of activity on Pinterest. Analysts suggest by creating a type of add-on service, Microsoft is instead attempting to become just another layer of the internet on top of how people now use the internet.

And although Ovum says it’s unlikely Microsoft So.cl will gain significant traction, it says the company may add new features later on.

“But, for now, So.cl will most likely remain an experiment at heart, which is no bad thing and Microsoft will still walk away with valuable insights and experience that can help improve its overall search capabilities, which is its major priority.”

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