Is ‘Facebook for Work’ in Development?

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Having built the world’s latest social network, Facebook has focused in recent months on other technology segments. It bought Oculus VR, builder of the eponymous virtual-reality headset, as well as popular messaging platform WhatsApp. Now it’s reportedly deciding whether to enter the enterprise market.

According to the Financial Times, which drew its information from anonymous sources, Facebook is developing a social network for businesses that will allow people to connect with colleagues and share documents. This “Facebook at Work” will exist as a separate entity from “regular” Facebook, in order to spare workers the embarrassment of everybody at their job seeing their personal photos and postings.

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If Facebook does enter the space, it faces a lot of competition from a variety of strong rivals. Salesforce, for example, already offers a business-centric social network via its Chatter platform, which includes profiles and collaboration tools. Microsoft and Google, meanwhile, offer ways for workers to swap files and information over the Web. But Facebook’s ripest target could be LinkedIn, the professional network with a reported 300 million users.

If Facebook builds a successful network for businesses, it could steal profits and users from all of these rivals. That success, however, rides heavily on how well Facebook can launch such a product, and whether it can figure out a way to scale up usage cleanly and effectively. Facebook will also need to negate the perception that it’s primarily a consumer product, in addition to making sure there are no privacy-related snafus—given the amount of competition out there, a handful of high-profile data leaks could doom the endeavor.

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