Facebook is making big moves with its chat tool for businesses, Workplace.
The social giant is most notably working on a free version of Workplace, which creates a private version of Facebook for any size organisation, that it plans to make available in the coming months.
Workplace is Facebook’s bet against Microsoft, Slack, Google, and other companies in the competitive world of enterprise software. Facebook is placing its stake in the ground on Tuesday by announcing that over 14,000 organisations, from Viacom to Singapore’s government, are now using Workplace since the service launched publicly in October 2016.
Here are some of the new features coming to Workplace on Tuesday:
- Integrations with file and cloud storage providers like Box (Facebook already lets businesses upload and host videos on Workplace for free).
- The ability to shoot live videos using professional camera and mixing equipment through Facebook’s API.
- The ability to conduct video conferences and live webinars with the app BlueJeans.
- Integrations with compliance partners to allow the exporting of documents and chat logs during the legal discovery process.
- Support for custom chat bots.
Workplace product manager Simon Cross told Business Insider that the service’s success is largely due to the fact that 1.8 billion people already use Facebook every month. Since Workplace is an ad-free, private version of Facebook (complete with News Feed, groups, and private chat), it’s instantly familiar.
“The key thing that we’ve heard loud and clear from our customers is that everybody just knows how to use it straight away,” said Cross. He noted that organisations are quickly joining Workplace because “they are buying into our ability to dramatically improve the speed of the product. We’re really good at shipping new stuff quickly and safely to billions of people.”
The Workplace team within Facebook is currently working on making the service more accessible to businesses that normally wouldn’t use a software chat tool like Slack, according to Cross. Facebook wants people to be able to sign up without a work email address and use Workplace on low-end Android phones, a strategy that’s in line with Facebook’s overall company ethos.
Cross said Workplace will also be able to help teams communicate with other partners outside of their own organisation. “Our vision is that it should be as simple to work with someone at another company as someone next to you,” he said.
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