Facebook is getting ready to officially launch a business version of its social network after companies have been quietly testing it for the past year.
Known as Facebook at Work, the professional edition of the social network will roll out in the coming months sometime in 2016, Facebook spokeswoman Vanessa Chan said Thursday.
Geared toward businesses and their employees, Facebook at Work acts like the same social network used by more than a billion people around the world. It includes virtually all the same features and options, such as profiles, timelines, posts, groups, pages, events and the ability to follow and interact with other people, in this case, co-workers. Games, however, won't be part of the package.
Facebook is already the world's largest social network, a Digital Age parlor where friends and family share what's going on in their lives. Now it wants to prove its merit as an on-the-job tool. Facebook at Work will compete with other business social networks, such as Microsoft's Yammer, VMWare's Socialcast and Convo, that provide collaboration tools, messaging, chatting, postings and similar features. Facebook's advantage is that many people already know how to use it.
Many organizations already use Facebook for promotional and marketing purposes but limit the way workers can tap into the social network on the job. Facebook at Work could eliminate that obstacle and open up a new yet familiar way for employees to collaborate, share and communicate with each other.
Facebook at Work users will have their own business profiles separate from their personal profiles so that the two worlds remain apart. What users share via their work accounts can only be seen by other people in the company, and what they share on their personal accounts can only be seen by friends and others based on their privacy settings. Company administrators will be responsible for setting up the Facebook at Work network by creating groups and pages, tracking employee signups and viewing group and posting activity.
Like Facebook's consumer network, the work version will be accessible to employees both through a dedicated website as well as iPhone and Android apps.
Facebook began testing the service in January by offering it on a free, invitation-only basis for select companies. More than 300 organizations, such as Heineken and the Royal Bank of Scotland, have been trying it out as part of the pilot. Club Med plans to roll out the service to its 13,000 employees through next summer, according to Reuters.
Facebook At Work will be accessible to any company after it officially launches. The basic service will be free, according to Chan, but Facebook will charge for certain premium services, such as analytics, customer support and third-party integrations with apps.