The page looked like a landing site for a service called Tulalip, which touted the integration of search and social networking functions. "With Tulalip you can find what you need and share what you know easier than ever," said text on the non-working page.
The page appeared on the URL Socl.com, which Microsoft acquired last year, according to Internet records.
By Monday morning, Microsoft had pulled the page and replaced it with one that offered the following cryptic explanation. "Thanks for stopping by. Socl.com is an internal design project from a team in Microsoft Research which was mistakenly published to the Web," the new page said. "We didn't mean to, honest."
The Tulalip leak may have indeed been in error. But it also may have been a ploy to generate buzz around a new social networking platform Microsoft may be planning. Conspiracy theorists who favor the latter scenario are pointing to the fact that the "leak" came less than three weeks after Google launched a public trial of its own social networking site, Google+.
Google+ lets users create profiles, share photos, chat through voice and video, and create contact groups known as Circles. Microsoft may feel it needs to respond, particularly given that the search giant is expanding into Microsoft strongholds like office applications, browsers, and operating systems through cloud-centric offerings like Google Apps, Chrome, and Android.
As for the current king of social networking, Microsoft's Tulalip project does not appear to take direct aim at Facebook. In fact, the mockup that appeared briefly displayed a Facebook sign-in icon, as well as one for Twitter--indicating that the service may be intended to work with existing social networks.
That stands to reason. Microsoft and Facebook have partnered on a number of Internet services. Most recently, Facebook announced that it would integrate Skype VoIP calling directly into its pages. Skype will become part of Microsoft once the software maker's $8.5 billion deal to acquire the company closes. Microsoft has also integrated real-time Twitter feeds directly into its Bing search results.
Microsoft officials were not immediately available for comment.
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