Facebook Is Said to Test Workplace-Collaboration Tools

Facebook Inc. is testing a version of its social network that will let people communicate and collaborate at work, a person familiar with the matter said, taking on tools from Microsoft Corp. and Salesforce.com Inc.

The product, which is in trials at Facebook and several other companies, will probably debut publicly in a few months, said the person, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Facebook at Work lets people communicate with their co-workers using the social network’s traditional tools, such as messaging and news feed, without mixing the professional posts with personal ones.

Facebook isn’t currently charging for the product, which displays no advertising. Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research, said Facebook at Work poses the biggest threat to corporate social-media tools such as Microsoft’s Yammer, International Business Machines Corp.’s Connections product and Salesforce.com’s Chatter. All of those services help people collaborate on projects and share documents.

“Facebook certainly has a familiar user experience that people love, and could blur the lines between employees and customers in a very compelling way,” Koplowitz wrote in a note. He does see some risks for the social network. “To fully compete in the enterprise requires deep and complex capabilities that aren’t required in a consumer offering,” he wrote.

LinkedIn, Jive

Shares of some professional-networking and collaboration-software companies declined on the news. LinkedIn Corp., the biggest online network for job seekers and recruiters, fell 4.5 percent to $223.28 at the close in New York after the Financial Times earlier reported Facebook’s plans. Jive Software Inc., which makes enterprise-collaboration software, dropped 6.7 percent to $6.37.

“It’s potentially a new formidable competitor that could address some of the functionality that is currently not addressed by LinkedIn,” said Mark Marcon, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., who has the equivalent of a hold rating on LinkedIn. “We have no idea what that Facebook functionality is like, but anything Facebook does won’t be taken lightly.”

Facebook’s workplace tool doesn’t currently allow communication with people at other companies, the person familiar said. Vanessa Chan, a spokeswoman at Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, declined to comment on the product.

Salesforce shares fell 2.2 percent to $62.51, while Microsoft slipped less than 1 percent to $49.46. Facebook declined less than 1 percent to $74.24.

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