Box.net Feb. 4 has added profile pages, discussion groups, bookmarks and other social computing features to improve the team collaboration features of its Box online file management and storage service.
Box won't be confused for robust applications such as IBM Lotus Connections, IBM Lotus Quickr or Microsoft SharePoint. But for small and midsize businesses for which $15 per user, per month, is a comfortable fee for sharing documents, Box is a much more affordable alternative to those collaboration services. Moreover, it's 100 percent in the cloud, not on-premises software or hybrid software-plus-services.
Box.net is positioning the new Box as a social content and project management service, according to Jen Grant, the vice president of marketing, who joined the company after handling product marketing for Google Apps.
Grant and her team at Box.net envision the software more as an alternative to dated content-sharing technologies such as FTP. Some companies also went paperless in 2008, putting their whole business online and using Box.net to store and manage files instead of buying a file server, she said.
Mirroring social network services, users can join Box and create a profile page that includes e-mail, picture, address and phone number. Users can start threaded discussions with everyone in their shared work space or folder.
Box also features bookmarks that let users add a URL, description and comments for Web sites or other content online. There is also a news feed of sorts, tipping off collaborators to colleagues' activities in a shared folder. Grant explained:
"We've enhanced the connection to people. If I'm working on a project with someone, and we have a couple Word documents we're all editing online, I can easily see their name on the side of the screen, click on it, view their profile and start to see what other projects they're working on. "
All in all, nothing novel in the way of Web 2.0 technologies, but Box.net is becoming a much more collaboration-friendly service from its original incarnation as a file management hub for consumers.
Box.net has more than 2 million users and now integrates with other Web applications such as Zoho, eFax and Picnik through its OpenBox effort. LinkedIn's Intelligent Applications platform also hooks into Box.net.
However, it also has no shortage of competition in the cloud, including Google Apps: The Sites wiki application, Google Docs and other collaboration services get high marks.
Google is also reportedly working on a Google Web drive, or Gdrive, which seems to be an online file and storage service. Other rivals include storage services such as DropBox and EMC's Mozy.