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Back in July Microsoft accidentally revealed an internal test version of a social search service named "Tulalip" – reportedly after a group of Native American tribes. The non-functioning site was hosted at socl.com and promised a new way to "Find what you need and Share what you know." Shortly after pulling the page, Microsoft did confirm the project, but stopped short of giving out any details.
The Verge says it recently managed to get some hands-on time with Socl and posted details about the service's design and functionality – although they make it clear this is still in private beta testing and may never be released publicly. According to the site, it mixes search, discovery, and a social network.
On the design front, Socl is very reminiscent of Facebook and Google+. It has a three-column layout with a social search bar across the top, basic basic navigation in the left panel, your news and activity feed in the middle, and a "video party" feature on the right that sounds awfully similar to Google+'s Hangouts feature.
Socl's tagging feature also shares some similarities with Sparks on Google+, as it allows users to tag topics of interest and then receive updates on those interests. Interestingly, Microsoft is making social searching a big part of the site. The bar on top lets you enter either a search term or status update, with friends being able to comment on both. Search functionality would be provided by Bing, of course.
It's far too early to know just how much of an impact Socl can make in the social networking scene, or it it'll even see a public rollout, but Microsoft will certainly have its work cut out for it.