Though they may be arch rivals in the online search segment, there’s a common line between Google and Microsoft when it comes to social media. Till 2011, the social media endeavors of both these companies left a lot to be desired. Google failed miserably with Google Buzz and Google Wave while Microsoft couldn’t get any sort of social media strategy going.
Google witnessed a turnaround in its social media fortunes with the launch of Google+ and if the recent TechCrunch report is to be believed – Microsoft wants to do the same with its secret social network – Socl. Though Microsoft wanted to keep it under the wraps, the beans spilled when it accidentally published Web site called Socl.com earlier this year.
Though Microsoft hasn’t responded to those speculations, it’s widely believed that Socl is a “social search” service that would allow users to “find what you need and share what you know”. It’s believed that Socl would offer true social media integration with Facebook and Twitter sign-in buttons.
Here’s my take on what Socl could and should be.
In the past, I’ve written extensively about the evolving battleground for social search with Facebook and Google locking horns for supremacy. Back then I wrote that Facebook chose to side with Microsoft and chose the Bing route for embracing social search, Google encouraged users to connect to their Twitter accounts when they conduct searches. This rivalry gained all the more significance as it’s not just Facebook vs. Google, it’s actually a battle of the mighty four – Google + Twitter vs. Facebook + Bing.
Socl might change the whole social search battleground for good. Though Microsoft sided with Facebook to get things going, I’m sure it wants a large piece of the pie for itself. Even as it remains unclear whether Socl will be released to the public, I strongly believe that Microsoft will enter the social search fray sooner than later.
What Socl may/ may not offer?
It’s believed that Socl would feature a similar look and feel as Facebook with a central feed, tags and feeds on the left, and invites and the big differentiating factor – video chat on the right. Who knows Microsoft might as well leverage its Skype acquisition to offer video chat services. Users will be able to share and collectively watch videos with others. Search would be triggered via the Bing and engine and I don’t expect any major surprises there. At this point of time, it is mere speculation.
Interestingly, Socl may not be a full-fledged social network and the focus may be on collaborative consumption rather person to person interaction.
Microsoft has a strong ally in Facebook so it needs to be careful to not to step on the latter’s shoes. Therefore, it’s expected that Socl would not be a replacement for Facebook, instead it would offer hooks so that users can send shares and queries to and from Facebook friends. Of course, we’ll get to know the reality when Socl launches.
Room for All
Several social media experts claimed that Facebook and Twitter will go unchallenged for the next several years and there would be no place to accommodate new social networks. While Facebook is by far the world’s leading social network, there’s no doubt that new entrants such as Google+, Unthink and Quora have successfully carved out a niche for themselves.
Though it’s early days, what do you make of the reports around Microsoft Socl? Does Microsoft plan to go after Google, Facebook or both to capture the social search space? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment.