Facebook at Work, the version of Facebook designed for chatting with colleagues on a private social network, now has its own chat client as well. Somewhat like Facebook at Work’s version of Messenger, the new “Work Chat” app, as it’s called, allows coworkers to message each other individually, participate in group chats, share photos and videos, make voice calls, and even use stickers.
The application quietly debuted on the Google Play store on Thursday. Facebook tells us the iOS version is in the works, and will arrive soon. However, the company would not provide an exact launch date.
The new chat app arrives just ahead of the planned public debut of a freemium version of the business networking platform, which Facebook said this fall was expected to arrive before year-end. That date may actually be closer to “in the next year,” Facebook says today.
The Facebook at Work program has been in private testing since its unveiling this January, and now has hundreds of companies on board. In fact, Facebook tells us that it has 300 businesses using its platform as of today, ranging from smaller startups to large, established companies like banks, real estate firms, beverage companies, travel companies, and more.
These customers include several big names like Heineken USA, Hootsuite, Linio in Latin America, and, in one of its largest deals, the Royal Bank of Scotland, which plans to have 30,000 workers on Facebook at Work by March 2016, and then its entire workforce of 100,000 by the end of next year.
The enterprise version of Facebook looks a lot like the consumer version of Facebook, and includes its own website as well as Facebook at Work mobile applications for iOS and Android. Employers can set up new accounts for their staff to use on the platform, and users can choose to link their personal and work accounts together. The service also allows for other business use cases, like document sharing, discussions, announcements, groups, project collaborations, events, and more.[gallery ids="1241393,1241392,1241394,1241391,1241390"]
As a freemium service, Facebook at Work will soon compete head-to-head with a number of other social and communication-focused platforms for businesses, including Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, and the rapidly growing Slack . It could eventually take on other platforms businesses use to communicate and organize information for employees, including the old standby SharePoint, for example.
But Slack could be one of Facebook for Work’s bigger challengers, given its emphasis on making work feel fun and social – which is the same vibe that Facebook is going after, as well. And Slack’s communication platform is more robust than Messenger (or Work Chat, as it’s called here) in many ways, given its growing number of integration partners, like Lyft, Foursquare, Dribble, Dropbox, Giphy, Google Drive, IFTTT, Twitter, Box, Google Calendar, Heroku, MailChimp, New Relic, Stripe, Trello, Visual Studio, Zendesk, and many others.
Slack has also been rapidly adding enterprise-focused features, like the ability to add new employees automatically to a preset list of channels when they log on for the first time, or the ability to map user groups to Active Directory via SSO providers. The company says now that it has 1.7 million users logging in daily.
Given Facebook at Work’s similarity to Facebook proper, it’s not surprising to see that Facebook has now rolled out a dedicated chat client for its enterprise user base. The client itself is not all that remarkable, given that it’s basically just Messenger for use with your co-workers. However, it does have a nice feature that allows you to disable your notifications when you don’t want to be disturbed or when you’re on vacation – something that could help provided better work/life balance for employees.
Work Chat is live now on the Google Play store, but is only available to use by those who are currently testing the Facebook at Work service.