Well, you're going to copy Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, remove two letters from a word (because the trend of removing one letter wasn't obnoxious enough), and hope for the best. The Verge's (great content, incredibly confusing website) Thomas Houston got an early look at Microsoft's new social networking effort, called Socl.
I wish I was making that name up. Sadly, I'm not.
Socl is basically a social network with integrated Bing search functionality. It also includes group video chat, much like Google+'s Hangout feature. What it doesn't include is private messaging, no groups, no at-replies. It's actually pretty limited when you think about it.
For now, the project has only been tested internally at Microsoft, but that phase is now nearing completion. The project will go public soon, working with an invite-system. Technically speaking, it is a research project, so it might get killed of anyway, further cementing the idea: what's the point?
I guess I just don't get Microsoft. The company seems to have some sort of obsession with wanting to have a product offering in just about every market imaginable - no matter how much sense it makes or how unlikely the product is to succeed. Social networking is not an easy market to crack - so far, not even Google has managed to make much of a dent in Twitter's and Facebook's hold over the market. Apple's Ping nonsense wasn't exactly a smashing success either.
I'm also wondering if this is really what Microsoft's shareholders want to see come out of Redmond. Steve Ballmer had to face several unhappy shareholders today during the company's shareholders meeting, who complained about the stagnating share price and Microsoft's hoard of cash. Are these shareholders really going to be happier now that they know Microsoft is investing in yet another social network?
As an outsider with little business experience, it seems like to me there's a lot of overhead at Microsoft. Instead of focusing all this brainpower and talent on Microsoft's core products as well as the next great thing, Microsoft seems to be eternally chasing the rest of the industry - and this Socl thing is just going to be another failure in a long line of failures.
This image on one of Microsoft's blogs? Pretty ironic.