Facebook has long been a place to go online to get a brief respite from your digital work for a look at baby photos, friends’ status updates or anything other than a computer screen filled with Excel spreadsheets.
Soon, Facebook will want you to take your work there, too.
The company is testing a new product designed specifically for use in the workplace, according to three people familiar with the matter, who spoke under condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the project. The product, which is called Facebook@Work, will allow users to collaborate on projects through group chats and document collaboration with co-workers, these people said.
The project, which was reported on Sunday evening by The Financial Times, is currently in a testing phase with a handful of outside companies, these people said. It is expected to be introduced within the coming months.
It is not clear whether Facebook will charge for the product, or if offices will be required to download any new software to use it. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.
Facebook’s moves come as the young market for collaboration software has heated up dramatically in recent months. Slack, a buzzy enterprise-level collaboration start-up, recently raised $120 million in venture capital to bring its software-based service to businesses. Hipchat and Asana, two other Silicon Valley start-ups, offer similar services. And notably there are the offerings from Microsoft and Google, each of which offer a suite of collaboration tools for big businesses.
The effort, however, is not new. Facebook began working on the project years ago, people briefed on the matter said. It has gone through varying degrees of importance within the company, and has not always been Facebook’s top priority. Currently, Facebook@Work is lead by a team based in Facebook’s London offices.
Still, people familiar with the matter say that high-level members of Facebook and Dropbox, another company aiming at big business customers, have been closely watching the growth of Slack, which is valued at more than $1 billion less than one year after launching publicly.
While it looks as if Facebook is likely to finally unveil the product after years of development, it will be a challenge for the social network — which hosts more than 1.3 billion regular users — to convince businesses to adopt it.
Toughest of all will be the Internet technology managers and chief security officers who allow the deployment of this type of software or service. After all, many larger companies also restrict access to Facebook in the workplace. Theoretically, that’s so they get their work done.
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