Microsoft’s social network aims to be “the new classroom”
Date added: 16 Dec 2011
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Contrary to the opinions and thoughts that flooded the Internet after its first images were leaked, So.cl wouldn't want to go after Facebook throne but rather take a slightly dissimilar path.
A month ago, the latest Microsoft project leaked into the Internet and raised many questions. The Redmond company was working on a social network and many argued that such ship had already sailed for the tech giant. But there was something different in its development and its approach to social networking, a thing that made some think more in a new social tool than in a Facebook copycat.
A new way to learn
Finally, Microsoft has revealed its intentions behind So.cl: the company wants to use the new platform to provide users with an expanded educational experience. Focused in sharing webs of interest, valuable tools and educational resources, the new social network seeks to connect college students with their peers to help them with their studies.
Of course, people not always use the tools according to the developers’ wishes, so it remains to be seen what will become of this experiment. Microsoft isn’t thinking about that, though, since its team keeps on researching with the purpose of capitalizing on the new approach to education.
According to Shelly Farnham, one of the researchers working in So.cl, “social media is a really active part of the learning process”. That would be the basis for this new project, which tries to spawn a new way of using the social networks. In that regard, Farnham adds that “there’s this real sense of a conversation happening within social media around what [students are] learning.”
A little far from what you already know
Don’t expect a big revolution wrapped in So.cl’s clothing since the site has few real innovations over what you’ve seen in the past. There are feeds, videos, images, profiles and followers, just like in any other regular social network.
What’s different, though, is the ability to write longer and richer posts. This feature would be key in So.cl prospects for the future, since such updates would serve not only as discussion starters but as educational resources in themselves as well. They would be the vehicle for sharing ideas on the topic being discussed as well as argue about the forms in which such discussion is taking place.
In that sense, Lili Cheng, general manager in the labs leading the research, says that one of So.cl’s goals is “is to create a platform on which students can experiment with their own ideas about a social network.” This, in return, would provide innovations and new perspectives for implementing onto the saturated social networking field.
So.cl is currently being tested by “students in information and design schools at the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University.” Such experiment would be providing very valuable data, not only for developing Microsoft’s social network itself but for changing all sorts of communication tools.
All of this make it very clear that Microsoft doesn’t want to compete with Facebook directly (in fact, So.cl would integrate with Zuckerberg’s site). Rather, the company is exploring new paths that might give it some edge in the future. It’s like the Redmond giant is playing the patient card and studying the game carefully before making its move.
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