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Facebook offers Workplace, its Slack rival, for free

A new free version, called Workplace Standard, is aimed at giving teams a taste of the service.

Facebook is offering Workplace for free.

Facebook wants to get more people to use its service at work -- but not in the way you think.

In October, the social network unveiled Workplace, a paid collaboration service for the, well, workplace. On Wednesday, the company said it's beginning to test a new free version to expand its user base. Now, the free tier is called Workplace Standard, and the paid one is Workplace Premium.

The software is meant for teams to use as an online office, with familiar Facebook fare like a news feed or groups. But it's not linked to your personal account. The paid version costs $3 per user for the first 1,000 active users, $2 each for the next 9,000 active users after that, and $1 each for anyone on top of that.

The paid version also includes extras like analytics tools and administrator controls. Right now, companies including Starbucks, Viacom and Campbell's use Workplace.

The war over collaborative software supremacy has become an inexplicably heated battle in Silicon Valley. Slack, launched in 2013 by Flickr cofounder Stewart Butterfield, is a darling in tech and media offices. Last month, Microsoft launched its own version of workplace software worldwide, called Microsoft Teams.

When asked about the competition, Simon Cross, a Facebook product manager, didn't directly answer the question. He said a free tier is something Facebook always planned to do with Workplace, and instead pointed to another reason to offer the software at no charge: give people a taste.

"Not every company is in a position to pay for enterprise or work software," said Simon Cross, a Facebook product manager. "They want to just try it. They don't want to necessarily commit."

Facebook said it also wanted to make the software free to cater to emerging markets. The top market for Workplace is India, though Facebook declined to share more specific user stats for that country or any other market.

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