Earlier this week, Microsoft launched a splash page for a project they call Talalip (the screen can be seen on the right). The page, if you cannot see it, says "Welcome. With Tulalip you can Find what you need and Share what you know easier than ever." In addition to this welcome text, there is a Facebook and Twitter sign-in and a series of Windows Phone 7/Windows 8/Xbox Dashboard-style tiles with people's photos. If this doesn't cry social network, I don't know what does.
Well, Microsoft knows and they know they published the splash page. In fact, not too long after, the page came down and an acknowledgement message (yes, that's right, a company that doesn't deny a product everyone now knows exists) went up in its place. The message 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.
Didn't they mean to? Hit the break to find out.
Here's the thing. Everyone knows that Facebook has reached its peak and is in its downward slide. It is only a matter of time before they are sold to a marketing company, just like myspace. Google knows the value of that market and has thrown their hat into the ring. They have even generated a lot of buzz about the project.
Microsoft knows that, if it plans to compete in the Internet world, they will need to get their hands dirty in a social network that isn't Microsoft Live Spaces. In invoking the image of Xbox and Windows Phone in an "accidental" publishing of an "internal design project," Microsoft might have just figured out how to shift the story to them instead of Google, at least for the week. They even picked a pretty clever domain name - socl, clearly short for social.
I think that Microsoft has the ability to succeed a social network in the same way Sony was able to succeed the Blu-Ray over HD-DVD battle. They have a massive install base for the Xbox 360, a growing install base of Windows Phone 7 devices, made bigger with Nokia, and a huge ability to capitalize on that if they integrate Tulalip with those existing products.
Imagine, rather than having to share your Modern Warfare 3 achievements through Activision's internal thing, you could do it through your Tulalip account, which is tied to your existing Xbox Live account. It could become THE social network of the gamer world as Xbox has become THE console of the gamer world.
Microsoft has a chance to really continue this hip vibe they have going. Let's hope opening more stores or ruining the social experience won't destroy that for them. Also, let's hope Tulalip is just a project name.