Facebook plans to take on the corporate collaboration market with the formal launch of Workplace by Facebook.
The launch follows two years of beta testing of a service originally called Facebook at Work, which involved a number of organisations, including Booking.com, banking group RBS, and the charities Save the Children and RNIB. Facebook signed up holiday group Club Med to 13,000 seats in December last year.
The service is intended to provide not just an alternative to email, but group discussion areas, personalised news feeds, voice and video calling, and general collaboration. It also claims integration with G Suite, Okta, OneLogin, Ping, Windows Azure and Active Directory.
It will provide IT departments with monitoring tools, enable collaboration between organisations, and support single sign-on.
Facebook said that the service will be ad-free (at least for now) and entirely separate from people's personal Facebook accounts.
The company is offering the platform to organisations on a free three-month trial, and will then charge $3 per user per month for up to 1,000 users, $2 per user per month for up to 10,000 and $1 per user per month for more than 10,000.
The prices are primarily intended to undercut Slack, which offers a basic version for free but a top-end charge of $6.67 per user per month.
Facebook claimed that the 1,000 organisations that used the beta version created almost 100,000 groups.
However, online commenters suggest that it will take more than an aggressive price to encourage adoption. One said that their company had used Facebook at Work during the beta period, but that use had notably dropped off over time. Much of what was posted was frivolous and unrelated to work.
Facebook said in a blog post: "We've had an internal version of our app to help run our company for many years. We've seen that just as Facebook keeps you connected to friends and family, it can do the same with co-workers.
"We've brought the best of Facebook to the workplace, whether it's basic infrastructure such as News Feed, or the ability to create and share in Groups, via chat or useful features such as Live, Reactions, Search and Trending posts.
"This means you can chat with a colleague across the world in real time, host a virtual brainstorm in a Group, or follow your CEO's presentation on Facebook Live.
"We've also built unique, Workplace-only features that companies can benefit from, such as a dashboard with analytics and integrations with single sign-on, in addition to identity providers that allow companies to more easily integrate Workplace with their existing IT systems."
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