Facebook jumps into enterprise collaboration

Facebook has a reputation as a procrastination tool; now we'll see if it can develop one for productivity.

The social media giant announced Wednesday it's starting to test its enterprise collaboration tool, called Facebook at Work, with a few unnamed partners.

The app is separate from regular Facebook, but it uses the site's familiar tools. It's designed to give employees the ability to connect and collaborate using news feed, groups, messages and events. But the experience will be limited to a user's co-workers, within a company—with no overlap with a user's friends.

In a key turning point for Facebook, which has built its business on advertising, the company is strongly considering a subscription model. This will be a key way for Facebook to diversify its revenue stream and tap into a valuable and growing market for enterprise services.

Facebook's new workplace tool puts it into direct competition with Microsoft's Yammer, Salesforce's Chatter and Jive Software. There are also a number of hot start-ups in this space—notably Slack, which is particularly popular for enterprise collaboration at new companies.

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What about LinkedIn? The new offering puts Facebook into the same general category of professional interaction, but it isn't taking on LinkedIn's core business of connecting employees with professional contacts outside their companies.

But LinkedIn is working on new tools that may overlap. Sources tell CNBC that in two weeks LinkedIn will launch a new tool to help co-workers share contact information with each other. Another tool, which sources said will launch by the end of the quarter, aims to make it easier for employees to share content with co-workers, and to their LinkedIn network.

But Facebook's test is clearly just the beginning of its push into the enterprise space. We'll see which companies it announces as its first partners, what kind of experience they have, and how quickly Facebook starts charging.

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