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Workplace by Facebook gets going

With its new "Workplace by Facebook" service, Facebook intends to gain a foothold in business communication, where its solution must measure up to established names such as Slack, Yammer and Skype for Business.

Facebook has officially launched its business communication solution. (Photo: Facebook)

Facebook's plan to bring its platform to in-house business communication is now ready for the big leagues. The world's biggest online network announced the official launch of Workplace by Facebook late on Monday. The idea is to adapt Facebook's familiar features – the newsfeed, groups, chats and live video – to business needs.

The platform has been in testing since early 2015, initially under the name "Facebook at Work." According to Facebook, some 1,000 companies are using it already. And Facebook employees have been communicating with it at work for a long time.

This is a market that is currently transforming – and also highly competitive. Other new providers such as Slack also want to break open existing structures. And Microsoft wants to maintain its strong position in the business sector with offers such as the Yammer chat service or Skype.

Workplace resembles the familiar Facebook

For its part, Facebook wants to leverage the fact that more than 1.6 billion users worldwide already use the online network privately, and are very familiar with its functions. The Workplace by Facebook pages and app views are structured similarly, only with the familiar blue color replaced by gray tones.

Workplace by Facebook: Visually this business solution is very reminiscent of the familiar social network. (Photo: Facebook)

Facebook has also instigated a price war. Companies with up to 1,000 employees pay USD 3.00 per person, with up to 10,000 employees the cost is USD 2.00 , and one dollar for more than 10,000 staff. There is a three-month free trial phase and companies pay only for their active users. Rival Slack currently offers a long-term free beta version with reduced functionality, but charges USD 6.67 and USD 12.50 per user per month for its paid version.

Facebook stressed that the business platform is completely walled off from the online network for personal use. Employees need not have a Facebook profile to access it.

Microsoft entering the fray

Competitor Microsoft is also working on a new communication solution for professional users. The "Skype Teams" business messenger service may soon join the Redmond-based firm's portfolio.

Unlike Skype for Business, which is part of Microsoft's massive Lync solution, Skype Teams is primarily intended for simple communication via chat, group chat and videoconferencing. Also planned is the integration of a conference scheduling assistant and features such as messenger bots or an Office 365 connection.