After a decade focusing on its consumer-based social networking application, Facebook has unveiled Facebook at Work, a new enterprise communication tool planned for release over the next several months.
Facebook at Work will mimic the personal version of Facebook, but is designed for worker interaction and collaboration. It will include capabilities that are part of its consumer apps, such as the News Feed, Messenger and Groups features.
How Facebook at Work will separate workers' personal personas from work accounts remains a question. If it works like Google Apps, for example, the application may be administered by IT, with separate login and password information from personal accounts, while still enabling users to log into both accounts at work.
Workers' familiarity with Facebook and their personal use of it may also give it a leg up in the market, where rivals for workplace collaboration and communication include Microsoft Yammer, Campfire chat, and Salesforce.com's Chatter. Some 23% of workers recently surveyed by Salary.com reported using Facebook during working hours.
Facebook reportedly already uses the app internally for communication and collaboration between its employees and, for the past six months, has been piloting the app at various companies. It is still early in the testing phase, according to Facebook, and the team testing the new offering is based in London.
Rob Koplowitzanalyst, Forrester Research Inc.
"At first blush, it seems that Facebook is following the lead of Google and moving from a pure consumer play into the enterprise," said Forrester Research Inc. analyst Rob Koplowitz. "We really don't know how far they intend to go."
But Koplowitz made clear that Facebook's foray into the enterprise comes with a whole new set of requirements that make enterprise collaboration a tough business. According to reports, for example, it's not yet clear whether Facebook at Work will support ads in the application, which would be a source of revenue.
"To fully compete in the enterprise requires deep and complex capabilities that aren't required in a consumer offering," Koplowitz said. "It can also be a tough, low-margin business where cost of sales can be high."