Facebook Debuts Workplace After Two Years of Development

After two years of development and testing in London, Facebook rolled out Workplace by Facebook, modeled after the company’s internal network and aimed at the corporate environment. Workplace by Facebook (formerly Facebook at Work) allows workers, even in different companies, to communicate and collaborate, for a monthly fee of $1 to $3 per user. By entering the enterprise communication space, Facebook will compete with Slack, Microsoft’s Yammer (accessible via Office 365), and Jive Software’s Jive among other solutions.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Telenor ASA, one of the companies testing the new software, introduced it to its 35,000 worldwide employees in March. Launched as a pilot project in January 2015, Workplace has been tested by “roughly 1,000 companies … up from 450 six months ago.”

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In addition to the Royal Bank of Scotland, enterprise cloud company Box adopted Workplace, allowing users “to share documents from their Box accounts.” “Facebook has a significant chance of being a highly used enterprise software,” said Box chief executive/founder Aaron Levie. “The energy and momentum they have in the consumer space, I think they can bring to the enterprise.”

Facebook’s EMEA vice president Nicola Mendelsohn describes why the company has created the new tool. “E-mail is good and has its place, but none of us like that endless email chain of reply all, reply all, reply all,” she said. Duke University Fuqua School of Business professor Christine Moorman predicts that, “adoption will be really fast” because “everyone knows Facebook.”

Similar to Facebook, Workplace “opens to a news feed with posts ranked based on an algorithm that takes into account a user’s previous activity on the corporate account.” Other features include “enterprise-grade security and administration tools and a more sober gray color palette,” as well as no ads. Users do not need a personal Facebook account to use Workplace, and “employers can’t use the tool to see what employees do on their personal accounts.”

WSJ notes that, “companies have been slow to adopt social-media tools for their employees because workers need to be trained to use new software,” which has left the field to “a small group of super-users.” Although the pilot phase provided Workplace for free, Facebook will now begin to charge, the first time it’s done so for its services: “$3 for each of the first 1,000 employees, $2 for each of the next 9,000 and $1 for each one after that.” That translates into “a $46,000 monthly fee for Telenor if all of its 35,000 employees used Facebook’s service each month.”