Facebook's social network has always been seen as the antithesis of work, whether it be at home or at the office. Now it could become the newest—and yet most familiar—enterprise productivity tool around.
The world's busiest and most interactive social network, on Jan. 14, launched a new portal that it has been working on for several months: Facebook at Work. eWEEK discussed the development of this back in November.
Facebook at Work will be available through both iOS and Android apps for mobile devices. There also is a desktop version that can be accessed through the network's main Web site; this one will enable businesses to create their own social networks in the image and likeness of—to nobody's surprise—Facebook itself.
Facebook employees have been using their own version of this for a few years, so it's been tested on the job for a while.
Facebook at Work launched Jan. 14 to a limited audience, opening only to companies that have joined Facebook's pilot program. The new app for Facebook at Work is supposed to become available in the next few weeks in the app stores for iOS and Android.
Direct Competitor to a List of Other Services
Facebook at Work becomes a direct competitor to services such as Salesforce Chatter, Microsoft Yammer, Googe+, LinkedIn, Moxie, Jive, Cisco Jabber, VMware Socialcast, Socialtext, Citrix and others. It immediately becomes a thorn to these competitors because so many people already use it in their daily, non-business lives; adding it for business is likely a non-issue for many users.
Facebook at Work works just like regular Facebook, except workers will use it to connect to colleagues or outside contractors who may or may not be "friends." Because the color scheme is slightly different, the new service easily differentiates itself from the regular social network. It will require separate authentication to use; information entered into Facebook at Work will not be accessible through personal profiles or to people outside of the company.
"Facebook at Work lets businesses create their own version of Facebook, just for their company and employees," tweeted Facebook product manager Josh Miller.
"At first blush, it seems that Facebook is following the lead of Google and moving from a pure consumer play into the enterprise," IDC analyst Rob Koplowitz said in a media advisory to eWEEK. "We really don't know how far they intend to go. Google took their productivity applications and email into the enterprise to compete with Microsoft in an established multi-billion dollar market.
"If Facebook takes their current capabilities into the enterprise, they could compete with enterprise social offerings like Yammer, SFDC Chatter and IBM Connections and some extent chat offerings like Lync or Cisco Jabber."
People Use Whatever Tools They Need to Get Job Done
In reality, Facebook has already been competing with Yammer and Chatter on an ad-hoc basis for several years. People who work use whatever tool or app they need to use when they need to use it, whether it's during or after official business hours. Facebook enables immediate connections, although not to the detail and professional level of all the others.
But it stands to reason that people tend to use whatever app they are comfortable using. That's human nature.
The word is that Facebook probably won't charge for F@W, at least at the outset. That would be one way to get companies that have banned Facebook use for employees on company time to relent.