Yammer March 1 will launch Yammer Communities, a free service that lets workers extend microblogging beyond the firewalled confines of corporate e-mail domains.
Yammer is a communications service for businesses by which company employees can communicate via Twitter-like status updates. The company launched in 2008, has banked $15 million in funding and boasted a seven-figure run-rate in its first year. Yammer rivals offering microblogging tools include Socialtext, Socialcast, MindTouch and giants such as IBM and Cisco Systems.
Yammer CEO David Sacks said on a conference call Feb. 25 that while 60,000 companies were using Yammer, some of these customers said they wanted to extend the microblog service to partners, customers, suppliers and others outside the corporate firewall.
Yammer Communities will let these users create private business-to-business microblogging networks so they may coordinate with external contacts. A user will create a Yammer Community and invite other contacts to join it.
"We call this the B2B social graph," Sacks said. "We feel like this is sort of the next evolution of enterprise microblogging, to not just allow internal communication but to link all of these companies together via these private communities so we can facilitate B2B communication."
Sacks showed in a demo how to set up new accounts in Communities, in a process similar to the Yammer Groups setup. Sacks input a network name, description and thumbnail, and invited users by e-mail. Communities may be set up so that only admins or any user can invite new contacts to a Communities network.
The key distinction between Yammer Groups and Communities, Sacks said, is that Groups users are expressly within a company domain. Communities networks are geared for external communication. Domain-based networks still require verified company e-mail.
Indeed, Yammer put a premium on security for Yammer Communities. Communities are accessed by invitation only and each network is a completely private workspace. Users have a separate profile on each network, with only a name and photo in common. While invited users may move freely between networks, the data does not.
Security features include two-factor authentication, IP restriction, password policies, the ability to block users, and the ability to monitor keywords and export for e-discovery.
Yammer Communities launches with more than one dozen partners. These include Alcatel-Lucent, where employees are using it to collaborate with customers and partners, and Deloitte, where employees are using it to work with clients about consulting gigs.
Sacks said Yammer Communities, which will also run on the Yammer iPhone application and AIR desktop client, operates on the "freemium" model, though companies can pay $3 to $5 per user, per month, for additional security and administration perks.
Hot on Yammer's heels, rival Socialcast March 2 plans to unveil Socialcast EASE (Enterprise Activity Stream Engine), "the most advanced release of its platform."
EASE will include total integration with Microsoft Outlook through a new connector. This means Socialcast will pipe enterprise activity streams directly into the Outlook application.
EASE, which will also include the Socialcast business analytics suite, will be available as an on-premises virtual appliance or as a SAAS (software as a service) offering.