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Facebook at Work Is Late to the Office

Facebook is making a play for the office. On Jan. 14 the social network unveiled a corporate version of its website and app, Facebook at Work, which ditches travel pics and kitten videos in favor of memos and project updates. There are no ads, and the company says it won’t use the platform to track activity or connect people’s business profiles with their personal ones. “We’ve used Facebook for years now as a very powerful tool to get work done,” says Lars Rasmussen, the engineering director of Facebook at Work, who’s testing the product with a few hand-picked companies. “Our experience of using it for almost all internal communications shows that it’s more efficient than anything else out there.”

Leaving aside the question of whether IT managers will trust a company notorious for testing privacy boundaries, Facebook at Work faces a number of major hurdles as it makes its way into the market. First, it’s late to the office party. Microsoft, Salesforce, and a host of startups have a jump of several years on social networks for the office. Second, Facebook at Work doesn’t offer any new features to set it apart from rivals or even its consumer version. The company has done little to address the problems of information overload and plain old awkwardness that often accompany internal social networks. “There is a risk that these get very noisy and you get distractions instead of solutions to whatever you’re trying to accomplish,” says John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, a research group that studies business technology.