It’s hard to keep a secret in the online world. Ask any Facebook user who’s ever forgotten to check those privacy settings before posting pictures of the holiday party. Or better yet, ask the social networking giant itself. Its latest project, Facebook at Work, in development for a year, was a secret before The Financial Times spilled the beans this weekend. Here’s what we know so far.
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Facebook at Work is expected to look a lot like regular Facebook, but include collaborative features like document sharing and professional networking features like chatting with colleagues and contacts. Users will be able to maintain separate personal and professional profiles, which would presumably make it easier to avoid the more embarrassing pitfalls of social media use, while still using its networking potential.
If it takes off, the new Facebook could be bad news not only for gold-standard professional social network LinkedIn, but for Google Drive and Microsoft Office. Facebook currently has over 1 billion users, while LinkedIn has 300 million users, 90 million of whom are active on a monthly basis.
Of course, in order to pose a serious threat to LinkedIn, Google, or Microsoft, Facebook will have to overcome a few major hurdles.
“…many employers ban its social network at the workplace due to concerns about lost productivity,” writes Geoffrey Smith at Fortune. “It will also have to persuade corporate customers that it can be trusted with their data, after a series of damaging revelations about its policy towards user data in the past. And it will have to assuage concerns about polluting feeds with ads and other tools aimed at monetizing the service. “
Still, Facebook’s past issues with privacy might make some companies think twice about using their product as a collaboration and networking tool at the office. At ZDNet, Charlie Osborne reminds us of an experiment earlier this year, in which Facebook manipulated users’ newsfeeds in order to test the extent to which “emotional contagion” could be controlled.
“This isn’t to say Facebook didn’t learn its lesson, following an explosion of outrage and censure levied at the company when the research came to light,” she writes. “It also does not mean that Facebook will conduct similar experiments in the future on the business community. However, it does reveal an unethical side of the company that corporations may shy away from in self defense — as you don’t sign deals with untrustworthy partners.”
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