The Facebook at Work smartphone app will be hitting both Google Play and Apple's App Store today, as the most popular social network in the world expands into usage for the office.
According to Facebook, only a few test companies will have the ability to download the app. However, the release of Facebook at Work, which was developed in London, shows that the company is pushing through with its workplace experiment that it has been developing since last year.
The app, which is still at its early stages, will function as a collaboration tool that will allow office colleagues to communicate with each other through a mobile app or a web interface, instead of doing so through email.
The look and feel of Facebook at Work is very similar to that of the social network of Facebook, but with certain significant differences. Examples of such differences are that advertisements are not present, and the company of the employees using the app will not track the activity of the users nor store their data.
One of the key features of Facebook at Work is the Groups function, which Facebook believes could replace the ever-growing email inboxes that employees have for their work accounts.
Facebook at Work is a very different service for Facebook. For its social network, Facebook has been building up products to become viral phenomena, and then sell advertisements to take advantage of a wide audience. For Facebook at Work, the growth numbers will expectedly be much lower compared to that of the social network, which has reached a user base of a billion people. In addition, due to no advertising on Facebook at Work, Facebook will likely be charging companies a subscription fee for its usage.
Facebook at Work places Facebook in competition with several tech companies that are looking to gain control of the burgeoning market for social networking, communications and document collaboration within the workplace. Such companies include Microsoft, which acquired social enterprise company Yammer back in 2012, and IBM, which has Connections, the company's own social network for the workplace, and Slack, a new tool by IBM for enterprise collaboration that was valued recently at about $1 billion.
Compared to the products of Microsoft and IBM, the selling point for Facebook at Work will be familiarity, allowing employees to more easily adapt to using its service.
"We've been using Facebook for work for many years now internally, and we've gained a lot of insight into how people can collaborate more efficiently," said Facebook engineering director Lars Rasmussen.
Issues, however, that Facebook might face with Facebook at Work are concerns by companies to allow Facebook to take part in supposedly confidential conversations within corporations, as Facebook is known for its ability to collect the personal information of its users.