So many companies are taking their cues from Facebook these days, particularly those whose applications already live on the Web. Salesforce.com isn't about to get left in the dust. Its new Chatter application, which hits private beta today, doesn't merely ape the look and feel of Facebook, but brings the underlying networking principles of Facebook to bear on real business processes.
The key aspect of Facebook that Salesforce wants to replicate is the continuous stream of updates posted by friends. So instead of personal inanities and Mafia Wars updates, what if that data was actionable business information from colleagues and associates? That's Chatter in a nutshell.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Last week, Google announced Google Buzz, which also cribs features from Facebook. ]
Chatter offers a Twitter-style "following" mode, but with a twist: Instead of just following people, you can also follow data sets like price lists and client lists. When a data set you are following gets updated, you are immediately notified of the change. If, for example, you're about to make a presentation to a client and your company's pricing data has been changed, you'll be in the loop instead of unintentionally giving the client outdated information.
Of course, Chatter also supports more prosaic social networking tasks, including Facebook-style status updates so that you can tell coworkers what projects you're tackling and ask for input, advice, or information. If a competitor is looking to make a sale with a potential client, you can create an intelligence group to share info on that competitor. And you can apply filters to your data streams so that you aren't inundated with information you don't want.
Chatter is scheduled to become generally available in calendar year 2010. A new Chatter Edition will include Salesforce Chatter, Salesforce Content, and Force.com at a price of $50 per user per month.