Facebook is determined to be acceptable in the workplace.
On Wednesday, the company announced a pilot launch of Facebook at Work, which enables organizations to create private social networks where coworkers can collaborate and communicate. The smartphone app, visible in iOS and Android App Stores, can only be downloaded by pilot partners.
Completely separate from the public social network, Facebook at Work offers the same look, feel, tools and features as the popular platform, with a few key differences, such as no advertisements.
With the release of Facebook at Work, the social network giant stands to prove that it can serve as a legitimate business tool. Many businesses and organizations use Facebook for promotional purposes, but ban or limit employees from accessing Facebook while the job. Facebook at Work might eliminate that stigma.
"We know that people use Facebook to connect and collaborate," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. "The same way we connect people, we want to connect coworkers. Internally at Facebook we've been using our product for years, and now we're ready to start testing Facebook at Work with a handful of partners."
Because it is a closed network, Facebook at Work also may eliminate a company's worries about employees accidentally leaking information not intended for public consumption when communicating online.
"Employees' Facebook at Work info is safe, secure, confidential and completely separate from their personal Facebook profile," Facebook said.
With this new app, Facebook positions itself in competition with other social networks designed specifically for the enterprise crowd. Networks such as Microsoft's Yammer, VMWare's Socialcast and Convo all provide collaboration tools, messaging, chatting, postings and similar features to businesses of various sizes. Based on how it markets and sells the new app, Facebook could use its name and clout to offer true competition to other such networks.
Lars Rasmussen, a Facebook engineering director heading up the project, told TechCrunch that beyond the iOS and Android apps, a website version of Facebook at Work will be accessible to partners through Facebook's main site. He also said the audience for Facebook at Work will be companies with 100 or more employees.
For now, Facebook is waiting for feedback on the new service from its pilot partners before it develops the product further. The company said it would share more details on Facebook at Work in the coming months.