Update: Woops! Microsoft leaks social net image

Microsoft Research gives glimpse of homepage for 'Tulalip' social site

The social networking world may be getting even more interesting.

Microsoft confirmed that it accidentally leaked an image of its own social networking platform. Called "Tulalip," the site is designed to enable users to "find what you need and share what you know easier than ever," according to the image of its home page.

Judging from the one page, users would be able to sign in to the site using their Facebook or Twitter accounts.

If Microsoft is getting ready to release some kind of social network, at least two industry analysts said it looks like they're arriving at the social networking dance a little late.

In an email to Computerworld, a Microsoft spokeswoman wrote, "Socl.com is an internal design project from one of Microsoft's research teams which was mistakenly published to the web. We have no more information at this time."

The spokeswoman did not say whether the company is going to launch either a social network or a social search site associated with its Bing search engine.

According to the Fusible.com website, the image was discovered at the Microsoft-owned domain socl.com. The site, Fusible reported, was not operational when it was found this week.

As of Friday morning, the page had been removed from the site and replaced with this message: "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."

This development comes on the heels of Microsoft competitor Google's unveiling of its own social network, Google+, two weeks ago.

Late Thursday, Google CEO Larry Page announced that the company's fledgling site, which is still in field trials, already has gained more than 10 million users. A direct challenger of Facebook, Google+ is stirring up the social networking world with its quickly found momentum.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said, "It looks like Microsoft is worried that Google is going to suck all the remaining oxygen out of the social networking room."

And Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group, said, "It's a bit of monkey see, monkey do for Microsoft here."

He also noted that he's not surprised to hear that Microsoft is cooking up its own social network or social search site.

"This is an anti-Google move," Kerravala said. "But in my opinion, Microsoft has become a fast follower, not an innovator... They might come out with an interesting take on social, but again, it may be too late."

Tulalip (pronounced Tuh-lay-lup) is the name of a group of native American tribes in Washington state. Microsoft is based in Redmond, Wash.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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