Microsoft’s ‘Socl’ search experiment takes a new turn

Microsoft’s experimental social network, Socl, is rolling out a new design and updated tools more closely aligned with what early users have been doing on the site, according to the Microsoft researchers behind the project. The overhauled site, pictured above, is available here.

The new design still lets users quickly create vivid posts with images and links by entering search terms and clicking on results. But the site is expanding beyond its initial focus on education to become more of a broad-based social network for a wider variety of interests.

“We want to match the experience more to the way people are using it,” explained Lili Cheng, general manager of Microsoft’s Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, which designs and develops the site.

As part of the redesign, the new Socl home page shows the latest posts from users, rather than a rundown of categories, making it more like a traditional social network. In addition, the tool for creating posts based on search results has been updated and streamlined, and there’s a bigger focus on the “interest gallery” where people can find posts by others on topics where they share an interest. The changes are also designed to make it easier and more intuitive to find and follow other users.

The site is now being built using Microsoft’s TypeScript language for JavaScript development, which Cheng says allows for more flexibility and experimentation.

Microsoft declined to say how many people have been using the site. Socl is technically still an experiment, but the company’s product groups are able to work with the company’s researchers to incorporate their approaches into their shipping products.