As we reported last night, Yammer has just announced that it will begin allowing users to sign up for the microblogging service without requiring email addresses that are associated with their company domain names (e.g. email@example.com). This new feature, called Communities, will open the service to less formal organizations, and even families. And it also opens the door to B2B collaboration, which is how Yammer seems to be primarily marketing the new feature Communities will launch on March 1.
This is a big move for the company. On a conference call this morning, Yammer CEO David Sacks said that one of the problems with Yammer so far has been that communication on the service has been restricted to internal use within a company. The issue many people ran into was that they’d want to collaborate with their clients or business partners as well, but didn’t have a way to do that without inviting them to their company’s internal network (which often wasn’t an option).
Now they’ll be able to build networks around each of their partnerships, upcoming events, and clients, while still keeping their internal networks private. Communities appear to function a lot like Yammer’s existing Groups, but now they can include people who aren’t in your company network. The site now features a ‘Communities’ tab at the top of the screen, which allows users to jump between a number of linked networks. There’s also a new tab called ‘Networks’ that allows you to see how many unread messages are available in each of the networks you’re linked to. Communities will include the same administration tools as company networks (and will offer more control than Groups do).
Yammer Communities will follow Yammer’s pricing model — it’s free to use, with premium pricing for more advanced features. Sacks says that the company’s iPhone application will support Communities from day one, as will the AIR-based Yammer desktop client.
We’ve been using Yammer internally at TechCrunch since it launched (and won) TechCrunch50 2008, and have found it to be a great way to coordinate our team.