Facebook unveiled its new social network Facebook at Work today, a sign of its interest in the lucrative office productivity and collaboration market. A smartphone app called Facebook At Work, with the look and feel of classic Facebook, is now available in app stores.
However, just because you can download the app doesn't mean you can use it. "Facebook at Work is only available to people who have set up a work account through their employer," the app states.
Facebook is limiting initial use to a select few companies as it continues to test the platform. The promise is a new social network with familiar interfaces that will limit itself to enterprise communications.
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News that Facebook was working on such a product broke last year. That's when the company confirmed it was working on something to enable employees to share ideas with their colleagues the same way they share ideas and content with personal connections. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook has been working on this for the past ten years.
Facebook promised to keep personal Facebook pages separate from corporate communications to reassure its users that it would be safe to send enterprise data across the network.
Facebook claimed it was developing the Work network because its own employees were more likely to use social media than email for internal communications.
It’s hard to know what to make of that claim, given that research shows that email is as popular now as it ever was and that employees have no intention whatsoever of abandoning it in the near future.
Facebook nonetheless went ahead with the project. It is impossible to say how this will work out although on this side of the release the number of factors agitating against it appear to weigh out the number of factors favoring it.
Pros and Cons
As a positive, Facebook already has a huge audience that is familiar with the platform and its different functions. That, in theory, makes it easy to install and more likely to garner ensure enterprise adoption.
However, the number factors agitating against would, at face value, appear to make the chances of success here limited. CMSWire writer Christian Buckley, an Office 365 MVP, outlined some of the reasons he believes it wouldn’t work.
High on the list: The fact that Facebook is entering a market that is already more than saturated with the likes of Convo, Slack, Socialcast and Yammer.
Apart from the fact that Yammer has, to all intents and purposes, become the social layer of SharePoint, Microsoft is developing it rapidly as the social layer of Office 365 and any other Microsoft product that fits the profile.
There is also absolutely no indication whatsoever as to where Facebook is going to make money out of this. It has already said there will be no advertising in ‘Work’ newsfeeds nor will it collect data from the networks to sell on to marketers in other companies. This leaves the rather dubious possibility of making revenues from subscriptions.
Patrick Rusby, a research analyst at Analysys Mason, a global specialist adviser on telecoms, media and technology, noted today that Facebook at Work has the potential to be a disruptive force in the enterprise social network market.
Increasingly enterprises are adopting technologies that are first used by their employees outside of work, as was the case with smartphones. Facebook itself has features that would appeal as part of an enterprise social network (such as instant messaging, link and document sharing, presence and integration with a wide range of devices)."
However, he added that Facebook at Work will need to provide an email service (or integration with existing email clients), integration with existing scheduling/calendar platforms and "a sensible file management system" to be taken seriously in this space.
Facebook At Work is available from both the Apple’s iOS App Store and Android stores.