There's no shortage of enterprise-centric Facebook facsimiles, but now Facebook itself may be looking to enter the fray.
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Financial Times reports that Facebook is working on a new website called “Facebook for Work.” The site will reportedly look a lot like regular Facebook, only with an enterprise focus.
For instance, Facebook for Work may still have a News Feed, but with information from the employer and colleagues. Workers would also be able to chat with each other and collaborate on documents through the site, and their profiles and contacts would remain separate from any personal Facebook accounts. Facebook has reportedly been using the site internally for years, and is now planning to take it public.
If the report is correct, Facebook will face plenty of competition, both directly and indirectly. Yammer, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2012, has often been called “Facebook for business.” It offers groups, a news feed, hashtags, events and even “Likes.” Facebook will also be competing with group chat services such as Slack and with the business-centric network LinkedIn.
Facebook may try to stand out by offering its enterprise product for free, at least at first, Financial Times claims. The rationale is that it will encourage people to spend more time on the site, boosting ad revenue, though it's unclear exactly how Facebook intends to handle advertising for business users.
Why this matters: Now that 71 percent of online Americans use Facebook, the company is looking for ways to keep those users on the site for longer stretches. Many businesses discourage employees from checking Facebook during work hours, or even block the site outright, so a work-centric version could be Facebook's way of boosting nine-to-five usage. But employers' attitudes toward Facebook could also be the site's biggest challenge. Facebook will have to gain the trust of businesses who may be wary about privacy issues, and come up with a way for employers to still keep personal use out.