Microsoft's 'secret' social network not so secret any more

Redmond seems to be cooking up a social network/search hybrid after all. Welcome to its Google+ killer, social -- er, socal -- no, Socl

It appears that Microsoft is cooking up its own -- wait for it -- Facebook killer.

OK, probably not a Facebook killer, given that Microsoft owns 1.6 percent of Mark Zuckerberg's baby, which is going to pay off very nicely when Facebook launches its inevitable IPO next year. Let's call it a Google+ killer instead.

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Despite failed attempts at brute-forcing its way into the Web 2.0 world (Windows Live Spaces, anyone?), Microsoft is apparently hard at work at a site that merges social networking and search -- or essentially what Facebook and Google have been working on for the past two years -- and it's been trying to do it in secret. That's worked out about as well as you might expect.

In a classic Microsoft "oops" moment last July, Redmond accidently let the social media cat out of the bag when the Fusilla blog stumbled upon a bare-bones Windows Phone 7-looking social something-or-other called "Tulalip" at Socl.com. After Fusilla found it, Microsoft took down Tulalip and replaced it with the following message (found via Google's cache):

Thanks for stopping by.

Socl.com is an internal design project from a team in Microsoft Research which was mistakenly published to the web.

We didn't mean to, honest.

Give them props for a sense of humor. Now the Socl.com site doesn't resolve at all. But apparently that hasn't stopped Microsoft from working on it.

Thomas Houston of the Verge got an inside look at Socl, which no longer carries the Tulalip name. (I'm not convinced that's an improvement -- and how exactly are we expected to pronounce "socl"? -- but I digress.) What does it look like? Take Google+ and Facebook, add a pinch of Bing and a soupcon of Windows Phone 7, stick them in a Cuisinart, and voila! That's Socl.

Per Houston:

Core to the [Socl] experience is the large search field at the top that asks, "What are you searching for?" effectively creating a new type of status update. You can also toggle the field to a traditional status update. With Socl, you've got the option to post to your feed either a note that you're searching for "live Prince covers" or that you're "live at a Prince concert." Entering a search term or status update drops it into your feed with appropriate Bing results, where your friends will have the option to comment, like, or further tag it.

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