Socialtext Responds to Crummy Economy with Freemium Wiki Service

Socialtext Free 50 is a free messaging and collaboration option for enterprise users. The mew tool is designed to lure more users to wiki provider Socialtext's enterprise application and keep them from IBM, Jive and MindTouch at a time when companies are struggling to keep costs low. Socialtext also rolls out a public beta of its SocialCalc spreadsheet and boosts Signals, its take on the Twitter microblogging tool.

Enterprise wiki pioneer Socialtext is extending an olive branch to customers in cost-constrained times, offering a wiki desktop application free for up to 50 users within a business.

Announced at the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston June 23, the Socialtext Free 50 service will let employees create and invite users to private collaboration networks using their work e-mail addresses at

Built on Adobe's AIR technology, the Socialtext Free 50 service will let users communicate with coworkers using Socialtext's usual suite of wikis, blogs, social networking tools and Signals, the microblogging application that is the company's take on Twitter for office workers.

TechCrunch's MG Siegler notes that there are limitations, including a single wiki workspace and limited support. Organizations that find themselves requiring more seats from Socialtext can upgrade to the Socialtext hosted service for $6 per user, per month. Larger companies requiring greater security may find it more logical to license a Socialtext appliance for $1,000 per month, plus $1 or $5 per user based on if they want hosted or on-site capabilities.

The question might be whether or not businesses feel they need to upgrade at all to paid Socialtext services. One reason to upgrade would be if a business were expanding its number of employees, something that seems less likely during the current recession.

Socialtext may hope companies will glom on to the Free 50 service, ride out the recession, then choose to expand and upgrade to Socialtext's paid services as an alternative to comparable platforms from IBM, MindTouch and Jive Software.

Socialtext June 23 also rolled out SocialCalc as a public beta.

Unveiled at the 2008 Enterprise 2.0 show, SocialCalc is a spreadsheet program that can be dumped into a wiki to help business users compile and compare data. Individuals can work on their own sections and are provided with a dashboard, an audit trail of changes and update notifications. SocialCalc is available free to Socialtext Hosted and Appliance customers.

Socialtext also improved Signals, adding a new full-screen interface and private messages. Most importantly, the tool is now integrated across the Socialtext Platform to keep employees signaling.

While just a feature tool in a broader platform, the popularity of microblogging tools can't be understated, evidenced by Twitter's meteoric rise in the last two years. Twitter's success has spawned startups such as Yammer, Presently and Socialcast, and has spurred more entrenched players such as Socialtext and even IBM to give customers access to microblogging features.

Indeed, collaboration startup Central Desktop June 22 rolled out a microblogging tool as part of its SAAS (software as a service) collaboration suite.