Facebook has just released a limited version of its new platform for professionals, known simply as Facebook at Work. It has been long in the making—as long as 10 years, if we count the time since its early versions were created for internal Facebook use.
The product comes as chat rooms, often thought of as an artifact from the 1990s, are experiencing a revival, both in the workplace and in the larger digital world. Several recent arrivals such as Slack (which Fast Company staff uses) and Convo, alongside older competitors such as Yammer and Socialcast, occupy an increasingly lucrative niche, as the tools that colleagues use all day to communicate and coordinate. Facebook at Work is Facebook’s attempt to own the growing trend.
For now, Work is only an app. (Other products, like Slack, are both mobile- and browser-based.) It is currently being tested with a small group of companies, and is available only through the Apple app store and Google Play. TechCrunch reports that because some smaller businesses were already using Facebook Groups as their internal chat rooms, businesses with 100 or more employees have been selected for the Work pilot program. It is unclear what, if anything, the final product would cost.
Work looks similar to the regular Facebook, with posts, news feeds, and events. But Wired reports that users’ personal and professional accounts will be kept completely separate. This way, your chances of getting fired for spilling embarrassing personal details to your colleagues–or sensitive work details to your friends–are considerably lower.
“Even if the employee chooses to link [the two accounts] there is no crossover,” Lars Rasmussen, the person in charge of the project at Facebook, told TechCrunch. “The content stays entirely within your personal or work Facebook.”
With some 1.35 billion monthly active users, Facebook has a large pool of people who are already familiar with its interface and can easily integrate it into their work lives. Yet with many of those users already concerned about their privacy on the social network, it remains to be seen how many businesses will trust it with their private work proceedings.