After experimenting with a beta version in the academic world, Microsoft has now officially launched its new media sharing application to the general public.

Microsoft So.cl: more than just another social network
It may be yet another social network, but So.cl (pronounced “social”) broadens the concept of web search result sharing via Bing and “video parties”, i.e. sharing videos online with a group of people and having discussions on them.

So.cl thus combines the advantages of all the existing popular tools such as Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter in terms of information sharing and comments on various topics, Skype for high-quality live video discussions and desktop sharing, and Bing and other search engines for searches by topic or key words.

With So.cl, all this content can be found on the user’s page. Denying any rivalry with Facebook (Microsoft is a shareholder), but less so where Google+ is concerned, So.cl is still presented as an experimental service aimed at students.

To open a So.cl account, all you need is a Windows Live or Facebook ID; however, as with the launch of Google+, setting up accounts was temporarily limited three days after the service was launched, in order to – in Microsoft’s words, “ensure a good experience for our community.

Whilst one could reasonably criticise So.cl for being too little, too late (as yet it offers nothing radically different from existing social networks), Microsoft’s initiative is nevertheless a significant step towards the trend of converging all our digital activities onto a single interface, rather than being scattered across a variety of unsynchronised media.

The main exchange platforms: key figures
Figures vary from source to source, but anyway you look at it, So.cl will have its work cut out making its mark in the already saturated social networking platforms.

  • Skype (2003): with 145 million users, Skype was bought out by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
  • LinkedIn (2003): the professional special network numbered 135 million members at the end of February 2012 (sources Internet Marketing)
  • Facebook (2004), 900 million users at the end of Q1 2012. It hopes to reach the 1 billion mark this summer. Facebook was valued at $100 billion when it was recently floated on the stock market.
  • YouTube (2005) currently has 800 million subscribers, with over 3 millions hours of videos viewed since its inception.
  • Twitter (2006): the micro-blogging service has 465 million accounts (200 million in February 2012, according to Internet Marketing)
  • Viadeo (2006): the professional social network had 40 million members in 2011.
  • Pinterest (2010): boasted 10.4 million members at the end of February 2012, with an average growth rate of 389% since it was launched.
  • Google+ (2011): 90 million accounts in January 2012 and 100 million expected by the end of June 2012 (over 170 million members, according to cofounder Larry Page), just one year after its launch.