Facebook at Work (finally) launches as 'Workplace'

Facebook already owns consumer social networking, and with its new Workplace service, it’s clear it wants the enterprise, too. The new offering will feel familiar to Facebook users but will also remain separate from company's consumer platform.

workplace by facebook app icons logo
Credit: Facebook

Facebook at Work, the company's social network for business, has a new name, but it features many of the same tools that 1.71 billion people use every month — without all the ads. Now called simply "Workplace," the service is now publicly available to any organization. Facebook is a dominant force among consumers and marketers, and now it is setting its sights on the enterprise market. 

Workplace is free for the first three months, and then Facebook will charge a range of monthly prices, per active user: $3 each for up to 1,000 users, $2 for up to 10,000 users and $1 each for enterprises with more than 10,000 users. Nonprofit organizations and academic institutions will get Workplace at no cost, according to Facebook. In comparison, the popular collaboration service Slack, now a Workplace rival, offers a free app with limited features, and it currently charges $15 per month per active user for its premium offering. 

workplace by facebook desktop Facebook

Desktop version of Workplace by Facebook.

Workplace is untethered from Facebook proper 

During a 20-month pilot phase, more than 1,000 companies tested Workplace, and Facebook says it made many changes based on feedback prior to today's launch. Perhaps the most notable tweak is a stronger separation between Workplace and Facebook's consumer service. "Most employees and employers wanted to have separation," says Sean Ryan, vice president of partnerships at Facebook. "[Businesses] want to make sure this was a workplace-oriented product, a productivity product, not a social product, so we separated it out into two different apps."

Workers will have to use Workplace and Facebook's consumer service in different browser tabs — they cannot toggle between personal and work accounts in the same tab. Workplace users will get access to a new Workplace mobile app and another "Work Chat" messaging app for organizations that's similar to Facebook's well-known Messenger app. Both apps will be available for iOS and Android devices. In browsers and via the mobile apps, "[I]t is a separate sign-on, and it's a separate instance," Ryan says. Those distinctions will also help Facebook position Workplace as a productivity tool, he says. 

[Related: A pre-launch history of Facebook at Work]

Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, says Facebook made a wise decision by pushing an enterprise cloud platform that will compete with established enterprise vendors, such as Salesforce. The firm forecasts enterprise IT spending will reach $2.9 trillion in 2016, and it expects millennials to comprise half of all workers by 2020. "Facebook believes that coming out of the consumer world, where these millennials honed their habits, is a market they can succeed in and capitalize on financially, and I agree," Le Clair says. 

workplace by facebook ios iphone apps Facebook

Workplace by Facebook for iOS.

Enterprises that use Workplace retain exclusive ownership of their data, according to Facebook. "We're very clear in the contract that the company owns the data, and we do not, and they have access to it whenever they want," Ryan says. "If they choose to turn off the service, all of that goes away." Facebook also gained SOC 2 compliance certification for Workplace, to help alleviate some privacy and security concerns CIOs may have, and the company will continue to pursue more IT certifications as needed, according to Ryan.

[Related: Facebook at Work chief shares details on its new social enterprise tools]

Workplace has all of the same basic features of Facebook, including News Feed, live video, reactions, groups, search and trending posts, in addition to exclusive corporate features, such as a dashboard with analytics and access to identity providers that enable companies to integrate Workplace with existing IT systems, according to Facebook. Today it also introduced multi-company groups to give businesses the ability to collaborate with fellow Workplace users employed by different organizations.

As for technical support, Facebook says it will provide assistance 12 hours a day, five days a week, and it will guarantee a response within 48 hours, or two business days.

Partner program will fill Workplace gaps

Facebook plans to bring more capabilities to Workplace through a partnership program that includes more than a dozen companies at launch, including Deloitte, TBWA and Okta. It currently has no plans to introduce document editing tools or storage, but Facebook will look to existing providers to fill those gaps, according to Ryan. "We're a platform company … we're not going to be the best at offering these specialized tools, whether it's storage, document management or ediscovery," he says. "That's where our legacy as a platform company comes into play, is starting to make those APIs and the platform available so specialized type of needs … is done by people who already do that and do that very well." 

Facebook, which first launched nearly 12 years ago, didn't rush into the enterprise market by any means, but Workplace by Facebook could ultimately represent the purest manifestation of the modern consumerization of IT movement.

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