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Facebook working on new business-focused version of site

November 17, 2014

Facebook is working on a new website called "Facebook at Work" that is meant to compete with professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

Facebook is working on a new website called “Facebook at Work” that is meant to compete with professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

Facebook will introduce a new professional site
The new site will, according to The Financial Times, allow users to network with professional contacts and colleagues and share documents and notes with each other.  The site will  have the same appearance as Facebook, with News Feed and Pages, but will keep personal content separated from the professional version.

Employees at Facebook have already used the site in their work for a long time. The idea to roll out the professional site to other companies is not new.  Developers have worked on developing the product over the last year and will begin testing it before the official launch.

Facebook at Work will compete with LinkedIn, Google Drive and Microsoft Office as well. Currently, LinkedIn is the largest site for online business networking with 90 million monthly users, according to The Financial Times. Facebook does have an advantage over LinkedIn, however, because of the opportunity to convert a portion of its users – over 1 billion – to the new service.

The new site circumvents the brain-drain ban
Interestingly, in many offices around the world, Facebook is banned and not accessible through the company network because it’s believed employees will waste time checking personal messages and have less productive days. Facebook at Work is a way to put the company back into the work day. The social networking site would have to address certain issues such as privacy and confidentiality of information, however, before Facebook at Work can truly become a part of professional life. Given the growth the company has experienced over the last 10 years, it is not difficult to fathom that its new professional offering will be successful as well.

Privacy and confidentiality will be key issues
The issue of privacy will continue to be a major concern. Recently Facebook updated its privacy settings and policy to appease critics. The idea of a professional version of the site raises the question of whether Facebook will be plagued by more serious privacy concerns in the future. Last year, after the Edward Snowden events, in which the extent to which the US National Security Agency spied on citizens, Facebook introduced new encryption measures to protect user data, according to The Financial Times.  

Facebook at Work will most likely be free in order to maximize the number of businesses and individuals that use the site. If they follow the same revenue model that is in effect on the regular site, advertising revenue will be the primary way that the new services makes money. According to Business Insider, the market for enterprise software is another reason Facebook is rolling out its new service. The enterprise software market in 2014 is expected to be worth $321 billion, up 6.9 percent from 2013, the news source added.

In an interview in July, Mark Zuckerberg said that on average, U.S. Facebook users spend approximately 40 minutes a day on the site. He compared this to the 9 hours they spend on computers, TVs, and phones.

“There’s a big opportunity to improve the way people connect and share,” Zuckerberg said, according to The Financial Times.

Ultimately, Facebook at Work will probably be successful, given the success of the original site. Privacy and confidentiality will be a major concern, but given that these issues have not deterred users from signing on in the past, that will probably not be reason enough to keep businesses from using the new service. The success of e-commerce continues to prove that anything that can be done online, will be done online.

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