Yammer, We Just Can’t Quit You

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Do you have a product or service you don’t really like, always complain about, yet can’t really stop using?

Everyone knows someone who owns a car that always breaks down, or dates a girl that they’re not particularly into but for some reason they haven’t made the move to cut ties. You just kind of wave the annoyances away like, “Yeah, [whatever it is] sucks,” but you don’t want to go through the trouble of getting a new one because the switching costs (i.e. the time it takes to adapt to a new product/service/girlfriend) are too high.

Enterprise social network Yammer is this for TechCrunch. We use Yammer as our internal chatroom here at TC, it won TechCrunch 50 and the actual company itself is located right upstairs. Yet every time someone mentions them in, ironically Yammer, the whole thread becomes about how much they suck.

We have a cornucopia of very specific complaints (and to his credit Yammer CEO David Sacks has now ventured downstairs twice to address them personally, in addition to forwarding Robin’s our checklist of complaints to Yammer PM Jim Patterson for very detailed feedback which I’m including in this post) but the truth is that no matter how much we hate on it, nothing better exists — at least as far as we’ve seen/covered.

Sure, we could move to Jive or Salesforce or any of the others, but their UIs suck even more than Yammer’s! For what’s basically an enterprise clone of Facebook, Yammer seems to have the “enterprise clone of Facebook” market cornered.

So Yammer, we just can’t quit you. Hopefully you’ll use some of your new scratch on getting your act together.

Get ready for a bunch of Yammer clones posting in the comments!

TechCrunch: Desktop version regularly freezes.

Yammer: We released a new version of the desktop client in October which represents a substantial improvement in performance and reliability. (You should try it.) That said, there are issues with Adobe AIR that are beyond our control. For example, Adobe AIR is a known CPU hog, which causes instability. It also seems to update versions constantly and crashes a lot. In general, we’ve been frustrated with AIR as a development platform, and plan to move to native Windows/Mac apps this year.

TechCrunch : Mobile apps crash on some platforms.

Yammer: I don’t know of a mobile app that doesn’t crash sometimes. That said, we feel like our track record on mobile is pretty good. We released a new Android app in November, and a new iOS app will be in the App Store this month. The main focus for both of these versions was speed and reliability. Our mobile apps have already won kudos and awards from most quarters. Apple named us a Top App for 2011. Forrester also named us a leader in mobile collaboration.

TechCrunch: Apps are also inconsistent in terms of UI features and whatnot.

Yammer: We don’t believe that mobile, desktop, and web should have identical user interfaces. For starters, we’ve customized the experience to fit the available real estate. Mobile and desktop are primarily oriented around quick access to the feed, whereas the web is fully featured experience. If you want to use the 100% feature-complete version of Yammer, that’s what the browser for.

TechCrunch: Direct messages get delayed or not delivered at all.

Yammer: This is not true. Every Yammer message gets delivered. You seem to be basing your experience on not receiving messages by people you haven’t followed in Gabble, which isn’t even an official Yammer client. Yammer clients offer the choice of “Top Conversations” (seeing everything important, even if you’re not following the author) and “Followed Conversations” (only authors you’re following). In August last year, we made Top Conversations the default. Gabble is not under active development anymore so they haven’t updated (the API is available).

TechCrunch: New features get rolled out slowly and not on all platforms at the same time.

Yammer: It’s true that we release features iteratively. We release them first on the web, and if successful, then we add them to our mobile and desktop clients. This is because most of our users are on the website. It’s not true to say that we’re developing slowly. Yammer had a huge release in November that introduced Pages, Files, and Ticker. You should really try out the Yammer website before you make generalizations about our product. Your views seem to be based largely around using Gabble and outdated versions of our AIR app.