In an effort to be more than a time-waster for idle employees, Facebook is creating a version of its social networking site for the office.
The new product, called “Facebook at Work,” will “allow users to chat with colleagues, connect with professional contacts and collaborate over documents,” the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Facebook declined to comment.
The platform is designed to compete with products for the office made by Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and the professional networking Web site LinkedIn.
Users will be able to maintain personal accounts separate from work accounts, which will have groups and a newsfeed like regular Facebook. Familiarity with Facebook’s existing products could make rollout in the workplace easier. “It is hard to imagine companies having to coax user adoption with Facebook at Work, as is often the case with other software packages,” observed Forbes contributor Erika Morphy.
In June, an unnamed source told TechCrunch that “FB@Work” would run on “all platforms,” including the Web, iOS and Android. Facebook’s London office is developing the new product.
Facebook is already testing the service with some companies. It will likely be free at first, the Financial Times said. It could rival Google’s document sharing feature Google Drive, and Microsoft’s Office suite as well as its messaging service, Yammer, which it bought in 2012.
“Everyone at Facebook uses Facebook for work,” a former employee told TechCrunch. “ … It would be a pretty natural thing to try to expose this way of using Facebook to get things done at the office to the rest of the world.” Every team has a Facebook group synched with an HR database with authentication security built in, the source said.
To be taken seriously as an office product, Facebook, which is banned by one in five workplaces for fear employees will while away their time checking status updates, may have to overcome a trust hurdle. Facebook got flak earlier this year for manipulating users’ emotions without their explicit permission. It has also been criticized for failing to protect user privacy, a subject it has tried to be more transparent about recently.
Facebook’s quarterly profit nearly doubled to $802 million last month, but its stock took a hit when it announced it would increase spending to ensure future growth.