Salesforce’s foray into injecting social features into the enterprise world, Chatter, is finally open to the public after four months in private beta. Announced last November, Chatter leverages what Salesforce CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff calls the Cloud 2, delivering realtime access to data and information, using social sources, such as YouTube and Twitter. In Feburary, Chatter was launched in private beta to 100 companies and eventually expanded to more than 5,000 customers. Today, Chatter will be available to Salesforce’s 77,300 customers and the rest of the enterprise world.
Similar to Facebook, employees can create business profiles with professional information like personal contact data, area of expertise, and work history. Searching other people’s profiles, colleagues can quickly identify individuals who are relevant to their enterprise needs. Users can post status updates to share communications, files and links around a project, sales deal or customer support case. And users can see realtime feeds of personalized updates from people, applications and documents.
With Chatter, all status updates from a customer’s Sales Cloud, Service Cloud or custom Force.com application are posted to the feed. So apps actually have the ability to post status updates, similar to a person, creating an actual ecosystem around apps and employees. Any app listed on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange will be able to stream updates to the Chatter feed. Since they are delivered on the Force.com platform, developers can build or enhance cloud applications to use Chatter’s profiles, realtime streams, and APIs.
So what’s new to Chatter? Not much except for a new Groups feature. Now users can create sub-Groups within Chatter collaborate around topics that they are interested in. And following the enormous success of Salesforce’s App Exchange, Salesforce also recently launched a Chatter-centric marketplace for third-party apps, called ChatterExchange. Today, 30 new apps launch on the ChatterExchange, bringing the total number of apps on the exchange for the social platform to 55 apps.
Salesforce has also announced its pricing structure for Chatter. The application will be free all paying users of Salesforce CRM and Force.com. Chatter-only user licenses are available for customers using Professional Edition, Enterprise Edition or Unlimited Edition for $15 per user, per month, which seems fairly affordable.
Salesforce is touting the productivity gains that the use of Chatter may have among businesses. Salesforce says that 90 percent of private beta participants surveyed indicated they would recommend Chatter to others. Specifically, these customers reported a 27 percent increase in collaboration and a 22 percent improvement in productivity with Chatter.
While Chatter looks and feels like a social network, Benioff has been fairly adamant that Chatter is best characterized as a collaboration platform, not a social network. In fact, Salesforce doesn’t see its main competitors as Facebook, Twitter or even enterprise friendly social networks like Jive or Bantam Live. Instead, the company has its sights set on overtaking Microsoft’s Sharepoint and IBM’s LotusNotes.
Now that the platform is open to the public, users can actually play around with it to determine how revolutionary and innovative the platform is. So will Chatter crush the competition? Probably not. Salesforce seems to think that most of its 77K existing customers will want to try Chatter out as their collaboration and social platform. And one of the key differentiators of Chatter from its competitors is integration with other Salesforce competitors-for a CRM or Sales 2 users, Chatter makes sense, especially because it’s free. But like Salesforce, Jive, Socialtext, and others have a loyal following and may not want to make the switch.