Just as Microsoft blends Yammer into Office365, a startup is offering a free service to add a Facebook-like collaboration tool to any web page.
Lifestreams Technologies, a 2-year-old company based in New Haven, Conn., said the widget can be used on any intranet or public-facing website by adding a snippet of code to the html.
"Most websites today are relatively static," said Peter Prosol, business development director for the 10-person SaaS firm. "You'll find pictures and images and text, but it's more or less as it is. It doesn't change much. But adding a timeline to your site ... it lets you be more dynamic, add new content, refresh and be a little more interactive and engaging to the user."
The cloud-based service works much like Facebook and allows users to add photos, videos, links, documents or text, but Prosol said it could be used many other ways, too. It can even be added to most mobile apps.
"We're not trying to be an enterprise social network like Yammer, though in theory, it could be used for that," he said. "Yammer has a very specific purpose. You install a social network and you use it to share ideas or whatever. This could also be a tool that a factory manager uses to store invoices.
"Basically a developer can take this and twist in all sorts of directions and customize it for the client much more tightly than you could with something like Yammer," he said.
As a collaboration tool, it can be added to a private site as a place where all the coworkers on a particular project share updated spreadsheets, designs, slides or other project materials. It can also be used to store resources, like links to articles or lists. "Once someone has a little time, they can browse," said Prosol.
There's already a feature to share posts from Facebook or files from Dropbox. The company is building a plug-in for WordPress to simplify installation. "Theoretically, we can do anything," said Prosol. "We can work with customers to add whatever they want."
There are some timeline tools available now in academic circles, but they have limited uses. "As far as something that looks like a Facebook feed or a Twitter feed, we've had a hard time finding anything else that would be for general purpose and fully featured," said Prosol. "I'm reasonably sure this is the first or the most generally available product on the market."
The company, which operates on $5 million in funding from angel investors and Acadia Woods Partners, is currently offering the tool for free in beta, hoping to gather some feedback from users.
"Eventually, once we have a better idea of how people are using it and so on, then we'll consider some pricing for more frequent usage," said Prosol. But he said, like Dropbox or Box, there will probably always be a limited version available for free.
To be sure, adding any html to a web page can be tricky for the uninitiated, and companies don't generally grant access to code to most workers. To get started, the company is asking engineers to sign up on its website. After that, a company representative will contact the engineers to help them decide how best to embed the code for their particular use.
Reinventing the Wheel
"What we're saying is that engineers build tools like this a lot. They build tools to track orders, they build tools that tracks customers, and so on," Prosol said. "We're telling the CTO, 'Look, instead of investing two weeks building the infrastructure and the backend for managing all this content, just install our tool, customize it to your specifications, and then get going with the content. Don't spend another three weeks reinventing the wheel.'"