[caption id="attachment_6413" align="aligncenter" width="618"] Tastefully understated.[/caption] Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and… Socl? Earlier this week, Microsoft opened up Socl to anyone interested in signing up for yet another social network. After signing in with either a Facebook or Microsoft account, users can assemble new “posts” from images, video, and news items pulled from the Web. Format-wise, it more closely resembles Pinterest, with its collages of images, than Facebook or Google+. The postings on Socl encompass a broad range of topics, even at this early stage. One user might post a half-dozen photos of factories belching smoke, under the title “Air Pollution,” while the posting beneath details college finals, Sally Mann, dogs surfing, or favorite soccer players—pretty much anything, in other words, without much order or reason. Whereas other social networks take care to design their respective pages with lots of negative space, Socl is a colorful riot, nearly overwhelming on a larger screen. An earlier version of the network placed more emphasis on text and negative space; indeed, it had more in common with Facebook than Pinterest (images of that older build are available in this November 2011 posting from The Verge). While it’s hard to say whether Pinterest’s subsequent surge in popularity influenced Socl’s design, the latter’s emphasis is very much on images—including animated gifs—and not on text. Microsoft already has a bit of skin in the social-networking game, having taken a minority stake some time ago in Facebook. While that investment has paid off—in addition to the cash from Facebook’s IPO, the social network is tightly integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine—there are certainly advantages to Microsoft building its own social presence. For one thing, a social network would give Microsoft another weapon for competing against Google, its rival in search and mobile operating systems. Google claims its Google+ social network is used by hundreds of millions of people (although the company’s definition of “using” Google+ is a little amorphous). By launching a social network, Microsoft can further pressure Google in social without having to depend wholly on Facebook, which has a strategy and agenda of its own. That being said, it remains questionable, at this very early stage, whether Socl can earn a significant audience.    Image: Socl