Whoops. Microsoft has accidentally revealed an experimental social search project called “Tulalip” on a newly-purchased domain.
Fusible.com spotted a teaser for the service on socl.com, which Microsoft just acquired. Although the site wasn’t fully functional, it hinted at the ability to search for something and get results based on what’s happening in your existing social networks. “With Tulalip you can Find what you need and Share what you know easier than ever,” the site’s splash page said.
Microsoft has since removed these materials. A message on socl.com now reads: “Thanks for stopping by. Socl.com is an internal design project from a team in Microsoft Research which was mistakenly published to the web. We didn’t mean to, honest.”
The timing was impeccable. In June, Google launched its own social project, called Google+, and apparently it’s been growing like crazy. Google believes that social networking is vital to its future. Microsoft, whose Bing search engine competes with Google, obviously feels the same way.
But Microsoft might not need to build its own social network thanks to deepening ties with Facebook. Microsoft is an investor in Facebook and plans to acquire Skype, which powers Facebook’s new video chat.
You can already find some Facebook recommendations in Bing search results, and Facebook is integrated with Microsoft’s Windows Phones. If Microsoft has its own social ambitions, it needs to tread lightly.
To that end, the Tulalip project appears to involve Facebook and Twitter, with sign-ins available through both services. Fusible.com also discovered a Twitter authorization screen for posting Tweets and reading timelines. Whatever this experiment is, it’s designed to use other social networks instead of or in addition to building a new one.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
As a Microsoft representative reiterated to Search Engine Land, Tulalip is only an internal design project, so it could turn out to be nothing. But I’ll be surprised if Microsoft doesn’t release more products with social underpinnings in the years ahead, Tulalip or not.