A lot of people have, in my opinion, jumped in to explain Microsoft's new research platform So.cl away as a Facebook competitor. Let's get one thing straight - it's not a competitor to Facebook. And it was never meant to be one. It's a pointlessly reductive argument, and as Microsoft pointed out, it's meant as a complimentary tool.

It does, however, have an ulterior motive that is so obvious that it's almost as comically hidden as one of Doctor Evil's 'secret' hideouts: they're trying to harvest the brains of our best and brightest students.

Microsoft basically want smart people to go sifting through information on the internet for them, and find the most relevant results - thus improving the relevancy of their own search results.

Who better to do that than students, who (unlike in my time at University - not that I'm old man of the hills) use the internet to research topics for their dissertations. Now, if they're smart, they'll want to use somewhere online to store all of the relevant websites and search results they find. If they're collaborating with others on a project, why not use a platform like So.cl? It allows people to collaborate and share search results quickly with one another - which has it's obvious uses.

Here's me searching for stuff about my favourite football team on there (shameless plug for Southampton FC coming up - sue me).



Pretty handy for Microsoft - having all of these people searching through your search engine and pulling together bundles of relevant content. Very clever...

More proof that Microsoft want to mine smart kids and their data? Check out this little function I found in the settings...

You can change your browser's search settings to default to So.cl! Just think of the data they'd collect on student's browsing habits if they turned this on! GOLDMINE.

So good work Microsoft - thanks to them you might start to get cleaner social signals from your search thanks to So.cl, and more relevant, smarter data (depending on who adopts the service) from Bing soon - and that's something that even Google might be worried about. Doubtful - fanciful even, but not improbable.

So - let the brain-harvesting commence!