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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Microsoft's Is it a social network?

Microsoft recently hopped on the social networking bandwagon and unveiled a new online project called (pronounced "social") which they define as:
" experimental research project, developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs, that lets you use search to express and share ideas through beautiful story collages. is for anyone who has something to say - richly, simply, elegantly. helps you create rich stories (posts) by making it easy to assemble and share collages of web content. helps you discover people with like interests, and discover interests shared by people you like."
As much as Microsoft beats around the bush about, calling it an "experimental research project," it is still a networking site created for socializing.

Some of the key features boasts about are:
  • Share Your Search - With you can share your searches with others and help them discover what they might be looking for. uses the Bing search engine for its social searching so I'm guessing it is going to be pretty similar to that of Google+.
  • Discover New Interests - can help you find topics that fit your current interests, find new interests, and connect with like-minded people who love the same things you do.
  • Start a Video Party - Video parties are Microsoft's equivalent to the grandmas watching the Kim Kardashian sex tape's recipe for success. The gist of video parties is that you can assemble a list of videos to watch, then invite all your friends to a virtual party where you can watch them all together and have a good time. If your friends aren't funny enough you can even view existing parties that were held by other users. I have to admit that this is kind of a cool concept.  users can create and maintain profiles, follow other users, and share posts with their network. Instead of status updates, check-ins or "tweets," your posts revolve around internet searches. This is where the "search experiment" comes into play.

At first this made me nervous. I don't want my friends knowing everything I search the internet for. However users' posts (or statuses) shows the search the user conduced through the search bar--not what was searched using the search bar.

Interested? There's two ways to sign up for an account. You can either sign into using your already existing Facebook account or through your Windows Live account. Using a social network account to log into a pretending-to-not-be-a-social-network social network sounds confusing!

All of this sounds like a social network. So what does Microsoft have to say about that? is not meant to replace existing full-featured search and social networking tools. It is an experimental research project using a minimal set of features which help combine search with the social network for the purpose of expressing and sharing ideas with rich visual collages, organized by interests.
So it's an add-on to existing networks? And they're not a Facebook competitor? Then they better have something awesome and new to be worthy of our time...

Although doesn't bring a lot of new features to the table (let's be honest, it's a lot like Google+), there is potential for a great tool. Several moons have to align for to really take off, including:
  • Bing popularity - Bing's search engine has to grow in popularity for this tool to be worthwhile for users. The more people using Bing the more content will be curated through
  • Users -'s current users aren't quite grasping the whole idea. Some users tag their posts as "tech" because they originally search something techie, like a laptop, but ended up posting a link to something completely opposite, like children's games. Once users understand that they play a role in the success of the content, this issue should auto-correct.
  • Privacy - Privacy on is basically all or nothing. There's no in between or customization of privacy settings.
I'm not entire sure what Microsoft is up to with Is it really an experiment? Why are you spending so much money on an online network if it's not going to compete with the big boys (Facebook, Twitter and G+)? The world may never know...

What do you think? Is here to stay? 

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