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Microsoft’s “experiment in open search”, so.cl, is now open to anyone.

Launched back in May amidst very little fanfare, so.cl (pronounced “social “) was initially offered only to students and billed as an experiment in learning.

Redmond has recanted those restrictions, today telling world+dog they’re free to pile in and enjoy the fun, as so.cl is now “a service where people connect over shared interests.”

So.cl is rather unlike other social networks inasmuch as a post starts with a search. The results of that search can then be assembled into a post that brings together the user’s desired elements.

Many users post just a single image. Others take a more curatorial approach, collecting several images related to the same topic in a fashion not entirely unlike creating a Pinterest collection.

Redmond’s not building a walled garden, as Facebook is a permitted login mechanism and so.cl’s About page states it is not in competition with other social networks.

“Socl is an experimental research project with a minimal set of features that combine social networking and search for the purpose of enabling people to express and share ideas through rich visual collages, organized by interests,” Microsoft says.

Whether Redmond will be still be saying that if, or when, it embeds a so.cl tile in the default Windows 8 start screen remains to be seen. ®

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