Socialtext Embraces Twitter Craze with Microblogging Appliance

Socialtext breaks out its Signals microblogging tool and People social networking utility into a separate appliance, allowing IT admins to deploy messaging and collaboration tools safely behind their corporate firewalls. The move comes as the popularity of Twitter and Facebook pushes companies to offer secure social software as enterprise applications for employees.

Businesses whose IT administrators are searching for ways to keep employees off Twitter and Facebook have a new ally in Socialtext.

The Socialtext Microblogging Appliance is designed to let businesses enable their employees to use the Signals enterprise microblogging tool and People social networking application on an appliance running behind the corporate firewall.

The move is a potential salve for corporate IT administrators wrestling with security concerns over employees using public-facing Web services, which admins can't moderate in the workplace. Moreover, most privately hosted tools don't let IT control membership, content or company policy.

The Socialtext appliance aims to provide security and control in one package, Socialtext founder and Chairman Ross Mayfield told eWEEK. The two applications will cost businesses $1 per user per month on top of the $1,000 per month server fee.

Socialtext already offers all of its applications-the Workspace wiki, Dashboard widget interface, SocialCalc spreadsheet, Signals and People-on an appliance as a behind-the-firewall substitute for its hosted enterprise social software package. The Socialtext Microblogging Appliance is the same server, but only includes the microblogging and social networking apps.

"People are all atwitter," Mayfield said. "Twitter has raised the exposure of our Signals social software application to entirely new levels."

Enterprises may also opt to integrate the applications within the appliance with their LDAP or Active Directory directories to enable single sign-on with other intranet apps and populate profiles. Businesses that decide they want to add the additional Socialtext apps can do so with an automatic upgrade for an extra $5 per user per month, Mayfield said.

The move is Socialtext's latest play to better compete with rival enterprise social software providers. Specifically, Socialtext is targeting startups such as Yammer Socialcast and Intridea's, which focus on enterprise microblogging. However, these companies don't offer their microblogging solutions via an appliance.

More broadly, Socialtext competes with larger providers such as Microsoft, IBM and Cisco, as well as smaller providers Jive Software and MindTouch. All of these vendors are competing fiercely for new customers in a cash-strapped environment.

Last month, Socialtext moved to undercut the competition by offering the Socialtext Free 50, essentially its application suite for free for companies with up to 50 employees. Mayfield reported thousands of signups for this deal within the first week.