May 26, 2012, 7:55 AM — Microsoft's social networking experiment, So.cl, a site designed around sharing Web content pulled from Bing searches, is now available for all users. Launched in December and aimed at students, So.cl is not meant to compete with popular social networks such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. So.cl isn't a place to connect with friends and share moments from your lives.
Instead, So.cl is more like an image board where you post and share web-based content based on general interest categories such as cars, movies, and sports -- all of which is filtered through a built-in Bing search tool.
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So.cl isn't for everyone and convincing users to fit this site into an already busy online life with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn will be a tough sell for Microsoft.
Then again, So.cl doesn't appear to be a product built for mass appeal. The social network is still under the "Microsoft Research" banner and is very much a development project. You may find at times that links won't work, content won't populate your feed, and other functions will be limited. But if you're a hard core social networking fan and want to see what Microsoft is up to, here's a quick peek at So.cl.
You can get into So.cl using your Facebook account or Windows Live ID. I signed up initially with my Windows Live ID with no problems, but when I tried to use Facebook I didn't get in right away. Instead, I was told to expect an invitation by e-mail in the coming days. So for now, your best bet may be to use your Windows Live ID to get immediate access to So.cl.
After you're signed in, you'll see a pop-up window suggesting some general interest categories as well as people to follow. The buttons on this window didn't work for me, however, so I just ended up adding interest categories on my own.
Once you get past So.cl's initial greeting, you'll land on a page called Explore. The main column is populated with general interest categories you can follow.
To the left is a navigation column with links such as Feed, Post, Profile, Video Parties, and Interests. The navigation column also uses what are effectively subfolders for each main navigation link. These secondary navigation links let you control what you are seeing in your feed or what kind of content you are going to share in a post.