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Future of Facebook: Will You Use It in the Office?

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has apparently made it his goal to change the way in which firms get their data and communicate.

There's many a Facebook user who has sneaked a peek at their account while in the office. Now the social media website is exploring a future where that time spent on the site wouldn't have to be illicit.

There's no question that the company has become an everyday feature of many people's lives. Nearly 20 per cent of the world's population already uses it.

But the latest proposal from the company, disclosed on the TechCrunch blog, makes clear that it doesn't think its role in the private lives of its 1.35 billion subscribers is quite enough.

Thus, the push into the business world, where many experts have long argued that a better way is needed to help workers manage the seemingly never-ending stream of data they're asked to process daily.

It could solve some problems noticed by many workers who came of age during the information era: a lot of the methods used by companies to gather information look antiquated in modern times.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has apparently made it his goal to change the way in which firms get their data and communicate.

Look at a modern newsroom, and you'll see workers getting memos and updates via email. Unnecessary information is often spread widely, whereas relevant details sometimes remain a secret. A lot of data is shoveled into the company's intranet.

The result is that workers tend to get too much news, but miss information that they need.

Privately, people get regular updates from services like Facebook and Twitter. Quick messages are shot back and forth with WhatsApp, while search engines like Google can pluck data out of the ether in a matter of seconds.

That would change with Facebook at Work, which would attempt to superimpose the social networking website's flow onto work life.

It would not be the first such attempt to bring social networking into the office.

French IT service provider Atos declared war on internal emails in 2011, arguing that they were ill-suited to the company's information flow needs. Upper management burned up to 20 hours a week just reading and writing emails, argued the company.

Employees in 2010 received about 200 emails per day and a quarter of their day was spent hunting down information.

Since then, a lot of tools have been introduced to help ease both problems. Internal short message services have been brought in so information can be shared with multiple workers at one go. One such service, Yammer, is now one of the jewels in the Microsoft crown.

The software giant hopes to make Yammer more accessible by integrating it into its Office suite.

Getting its name out there is important to Microsoft, since so many younger challengers are trying to get the drop on it by racing ahead with options suitable for smartphones and tablets.

Former Facebook head of technology Brett Taylor created his startup, Quip, with the goal of doing for "tablets and phones what Microsoft Office did for the PC."

That means spreadsheets and other forms should be accessible for viewing and editing on a smartphone's screen, but with the added option of being able to simply share the file and thoughts on it via instant messaging.

About 8,500 employees at Facebook already use the company's corporate system.

Product teams work together in Facebook groups, according to company interviews in the media. Information is also shared on so-called Newsfeeds, just as a regular user might share snapshots or a witty thought. Its Messenger system is, of course, used for sharing quick communications.

Details of Facebook's plans are few, but the Financial Times reports options will allow communications within Facebook groups, networking with business contacts and allowing collaborative work on documents.

Facebook's advantage is its 1.35 billion users. They already feel at home in the Facebook environment.

But data security worries could put an end to the company's corporate plans before they're launched.

Ever since 2013 revelations about the scope of eavesdropping by the US National Security Agency, many have become sceptical about doing any work that might be stored in a US-based cloud service.

Nor does Facebook's own business plan make it a likely contender in the eyes of some, since its whole business plan revolves around gathering up as much personal data about its users as possible.

On the other hand, Facebook can now point to the fact that it has significantly beefed up its encryption.

Regardless of who makes the first bid at creating office social networks, the change seems inevitable. It's just a question of who makes it work best first.

©2014 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)


 

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