Pretty soon it won’t be a faux pas to be caught out looking at Facebook at your desk, thanks to ‘Facebook at Work’, a new app which will enable companies to create their own self-contained social networks. It is currently being trialled on Android, iOS and desktop with a small handful of “pilot partners”.
According to Facebook at Work’s engineering director Lars Rasmussen, more and more Facebook employees have been using the network as their primary tool for internal communication, so creating an entirely separate app for workplaces makes perfect sense: “Facebook became a bigger and bigger part of our work day,” he says, “we’ve been discussing it for years so now we’re making the first externally available product.”
The features of Facebook at Work are pretty similar to those of the original; you’ll have News Feed, Groups, Events and Messages, all of which could be handy ways of making sure your staff are up to date with the latest company news and haven’t forgotten about the next big corporate event. One area where Facebook at Work differs is in how it connects people; users will be able to ‘follow’ their colleagues or bosses, rather than becoming ‘friends’. This means that the brand new intern can stay up to date with what the CEO is doing, without the CEO having to do the same.
Employees’ Facebook at Work profiles will be kept completely separate from their regular Facebook accounts, so there’s no need to worry that word of your weekend antics will spill over into the company’s official News Feed. And should an employee leave the company, their Facebook at Work profiles (and any content they created or shared) will remain property of the employer.
At present it is uncertain how Facebook at Work intends to make money, as it is reported to be an ad-free app, and will most likely be made available for free once it is rolled out. If this is merely a ploy by Facebook to ensure you are spending as much of your waking life on the site as possible (which a number of commentators believe, including Wired’s Davey Alba), then it will need to up its game in terms of functionality. There is nothing offered by Facebook at Work that can’t already be achieved on regular Facebook, the only distinction is that it separates users’ work and social lives. If it truly wants to add value to consumers’ 9 to 5 and convince companies that it is worth the hassle, then document-sharing tools might be a good place to start.
One more important thing to note is that the colour scheme of the new app is different from the traditional white and blue; so don’t think you can get away with scrolling through Facebook under the pretence of ‘working’.