No one should be surprised that Facebook is secretly working on a form of Facebook for work.
Because, if you are ever lucky enough to be one of Facebook’s 8,348 employees, you will be on Facebook all day long. Not with your friends, but with your co-workers.
At Facebook, employees use Facebook for everything: they use it instead of email, as their group chat room, to collaborate on documents, to IM, to share news.
Sources close to the company tell us a few other companies are in a pilot mode, testing a version of Facebook at their companies that mimics how Facebook employees uses it internally.
For instance, if someone at Facebook notices something on campus that needs to be fixed, they post a photo of the broken thing to the facilities management group.
In fact, through such photos, the maintenance crew noticed that employees were always cutting across a certain section of grass. So they put a brick path in. Which caused a Wizard of Oz prankster showdown.
Someone painted the brick path yellow and posted a photo. Someone else added a Wizard of Oz house complete with dead witch and ruby red slippers and posted a photo.
The key to a Facebook At Work service will be how much Facebook lets people separate their work identities from their personal Facebook selves.
We would guess that Facebook would follow Google Apps in this. A login from your company Google Apps account is managed by an IT administrator and it’s not the same as the one you use for your personal gmail and apps. But, you can link the two and sign into multiple accounts at once.
The biggest question is if Facebook will use ads with Facebook at Work. Presumably, it will one-day have a free ad-supported version as well as a paid subscription version, no ads.
However, sources tell us that the pilot program does not include ads.
Facebook could eventually offer a subscription version, but typically how it works is it throws a new service out there, sees how popular it becomes and invests in new features and ways to earn money after it gets popular.
But of Facebook opts to use ads, that could be a problem, warns David Lavenda, VP of Product Strategy at harmon.ie, a product that would compete with Facebook at Work. harmon.ie is an app that combines Microsoft’s social tools into one screen (Yammer, Outlook, SharePoint, Office 365 notes, etc.).
A few years ago, Lavenda was working on his own Facebook at Work app. He had taken Facebook and added a bunch of security features to it make enterprises like it. He had several big companies testing it and was showing it to more.
At one high profile demo, while we were showing how secure the solution was, an ad for ‘Casual Sex Friday’ popped up on the screen. The Legal folks in the room told us to close the computers — the demo was over.
And thus ended his attempt to turn Facebook into something for enterprises.
Facebook obviously has control over their own ad network, though again, we understand that the prototype is not so far along that “SFW” labels on ads are in use.
Still, Facebook itself is proof that Facebook can be used by over 8,000 employees productively. If it works out the bugs so enterprises can trust it, it could prove popular.
Facebook declined to comment.