Facebook for the Enterprise
Posted by rbpasker on August 17, 2007
The internet is full of surprises. Just when everyone thought MySpace was the killer personal social networking platform and LinkedIn was the killer business social networking platform, along comes Facebook, and we realize that its still a horse race.
We saw this happen the web app space when Cold Fusion eventually gave way to WebLogic (eventually giving way to other J2EE platforms; CF now runs as a J2EE plug-in), and search “giant” Alta Vista was run over by Google. Now, it seems, J2EE and Google are perceived as being vulnerable to LAMP/P/R and lightweight Java frameworks such as Spring, and to semantic web startups like Powerset, respectively.
I’m not going to jump on the Facebook versus MySpace war, since that has been covered extensively, but I do want to point out one glaring difference: Facebook has a development platform and MySpace doesn’t. Ever since my first infrastructure software project, I’ve relied on plug-ins to permit customers to extend the platform. On VAX/VMS, it was hard, but in Java it was pretty easy. When making a decision about which kind of product to use, smart, creative people pick extensible products because such products are a canvas that they can paint and interact with, rather than just a painting to be hung on the wall. Plugins are found in all sorts of products now, such as Adium, Eclipse, WordPress, etc.
What does this have to do with Facebook for the enterprise? Well, Jive Software’s Clearspace, which bills itself as an Enterprise 2.0 collaboration product, can also be thought of as an enterprise social networking platform that allows employees to get to know each other, share data, and collaborate through the use of wikis, blogs, instant messaging, and file sharing. Jive recently launched its developer program to provide a marketplace of plugins for developers and customers, and they are now holding a plug-in contest with a $5,000 cash first prize. The advent of plugins for Clearspace means that they are poised to provide Facebook-like extensible functionality inside the firewall, no doubt over the objections of their more static competitors.
(NB: I am an advisor to Jive Software)