Microsoft has launched another social network. This one is called Socl (or so.cl according to its URL) and at first glance, it looks like a Pinterest clone skinned to look like a WinRT1 application.
Basically, that’s what it appears to be. You can sign in with a Facebook account, or use a Microsoft Passport for Windows Live.NET (or whatever they’re calling it this week) login.
You then create a collage of things based on a topic, which you enter into the green search box at the top (the thing that isn’t immediately clear as a text box.) It then queries Bing, and returns results to allow you to build up your collage.
And then it gets posted, and lost in a constant stream of unremarkable images, scraped from the web and filtered into a constant bombardment of mediocre tat, a smörgåsbord of miscellaneous images with no connection to each other.
Here is Socl’s problem: there’s nothing exciting here. It’s like browsing through GLaDOS’s mind, except without the deadly neurotoxin and the murderous love of science. You’re forced to sift through reams of generic tut to find something slightly less awful. It’s Tumblr, but without the propensity to take offence or the slash fiction.
And then there’s the name. Even if it wasn’t a business-suited starfish-phone-using marketing committee that devised it, it certainly feels that way. “All the cool kids are omitting vowels. Let’s omit some vowels! But we need it to scream SOCIAL. WEB 2.0. Because it’s a SOCIAL network. LIKE FACEBOOK. Except not like Facebook. Or Pinterest.”
Microsoft has a good pedigree when it comes to this. The now-defunct Zune client software featured a tab labelled simply “SOCIAL” which exhorted you to “INVITE YOUR FRIENDS TO THE SOCIAL.”
These similarly-awful efforts make me wonder how much money Microsoft is pissing up the wall here. This is not to say that others aren’t guilty of similar cock-ups (yes, I am looking at you, Ping.)
However, it’s rapidly becoming clear that Microsoft are shooting themselves in the foot, repeatedly, with a succession of increasingly-more-powerful munitions.
If the Windows 8/Windows RT confusion is a sawn-off shotgun, and the Windows Phone platform reset is an AK-47 with tracer rounds, then Socl is probably little more than a Walther PPK.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt.