Facebook for Work: Can it rival LinkedIn & Yammer?

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Facebook is working on a business-focused version of its social networking service that looks set to take on rivals.

Dubbed Facebook for Work, it's expected to give the likes of Yammer and Salesforce's Chatter a run for their money. Internal testing has been carried out for the last 12-months and as of yet there is no official launch date.

The service is said be in development at Facebook's London offices by a team led by Lars Rasmussen, who previous credits include co-founding Google Maps.

But what can users expect from the service when its launches?

What will it do?

The service will look and feel much like Facebook but will enable colleagues to connect and chat with each other as well as professional contacts. The service will also feature document collaboration, setting itself up as a rival to the likes of Box and Google Drive.

Key features like the news feed and groups will remains, but Facebook for Work will separate a user's personal profile from their business one.

Isn't this like Facebook for Business?

No. Facebook for Business is a way the firm makes money by helping businesses promote themselves on its social network. Facebook for Work is all about helping people within organisations collaborate with each other.

Who is this competing against?

Facebook for Work will compete with LinkedIn, Microsoft's Yammer and Salesforce's Chatter. The latter two have already been dubbed a Facebook for business, offering news feed, hashtags, events and even likes.

Will businesses trust Facebook at Work?

Facebook is banned by some organisations and the firm could find it difficult to convince businesses it is the best place to conduct internal communications, let alone its confidential data. The social network has been criticised over data mining and privacy for years - and trust could be the biggest issue for the service.

While users can now use HTTPS to encrypt data going back and forth to Facebook, potential flaws in its Messenger service will have to be rectified before any firm tries the platform.

What will it cost?

Again, no firm details, but if the service is free to use with revenue generated by ads, these ads would involve targeting and collecting data, not something many organisations would welcome.

If there was a cost involved, it would have to align those prices with those of competing firms. Facebook has deep enough pockets to go completely free but sooner or later the service would have to pay its own way to keep shareholders happy.

What are the benefits?

As most rival services offer pretty much what organisations want, Facebook for Work has one benefit in that would be one less service employees need to log into.

It would be difficult to say if such a service would encourage users to be more productive at work. The relationships built up over such a service may be helpful in conveying timely information to employees and overcome hierarchical structures that can often hinder projects. With that last point, it may help employees to find other colleagues within the organisation that could be helpful in any projects that employee has on the go.

When is it coming?

No date as yet as Facebook has not confirmed that the service even exists. However, we wouldn't be surprised to see it appear in beta form sometime next year.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.