Facebook makes another move to obtain a toehold in the workplace on Wednesday, as new smartphone app “Facebook at Work” hits the iOS and Android app stores.
Facebook says only a handful of test companies will be able to download the app, which was developed in London, but the release signals that the company is moving forward with the workplace experiment it has been working on since at least November.
The Facebook at Work collaboration tool allows co-workers to communicate via a web interface or a mobile app. The software, intended to replace email for such tasks, is still in the early stages.
While the app looks and feels similar to the familiar public Facebook network, there will be no advertisements, and the company says it will not track or hold user data.
One key feature of the app is “Groups,” which the company hopes will replace the ever-growing email lists most corporate users are faced with.
The lack of advertising in the service indicates that Facebook will likely look to subscription fees as a profit generator for the service.
Facebook enters a marketplace already served by such competitors as Microsoft’s Yammer – which the Redmond firm purchased in 2012, and has been working to integrate with its Office productivity suite – and IBM’s own workplace networking service called Connections.
While Facebook’s main selling point will be familiarity, the company could also face trust issues from IT departments wary of allowing a company that specializes in collecting personal data about its users to have access to their internal conversations.
It is unclear when Facebook at Work will launch to a wider availability, and the company is reportedly still working on the details of such a launch.