When Salesforce.com first announced its Chatter enterprise social networking application, the company was providing an answer to a simple question: Why isn't all enterprise software like Facebook? After all, Facebook is an astoundingly popular site, even briefly dethroning Google as the most visited site on the Web, and through its widespread use and easy-to-use interface, Facebook has "trained the internet how to collaborate" according to Salesforce.
Now, Salesforce is pushing the "Facebook functionality for enterprises" paradigm further by expanding the scope of Chatter into both Force.com and the Service Cloud. The company calls this outlook Cloud 2, saying that while the original cloud was exemplified by sites like Amazon, Google, and eBay, the new cloud is focused on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Become savvy about the professional uses of social networking; read InfoWorld's six commandments of social networking at work. ]
On the Force.com side, the platform has been given a Chatter makeover and includes features like profiles and feeds that closely mimic the look and feel of Facebook. Salesforce is also announcing the debut of the first batch of Chatter-enabled applications. These partner-built apps have Chatter functionality baked in, so you can use the networking and collaboration tools of Chatter from inside the apps themselves, and they will be sold in the new Chatter Exchange category of AppsExchange.com, Salesforce's apps marketplace.
When it comes to the Service Cloud, Chatter helps workers collaborate to address customer service needs while also recognizing that the customer service realm has been changed dramatically by new technology. Nowadays, companies have to be able to service customers through multiple channels -- not just the phone and email, but also so-called Cloud 2 sites like Twitter and Facebook. The Service Cloud acts as a routing hub for customer service workers; data comes to the workers, who can then send it to other workers or to customers as needed.
If, for example, a customer tweets about a technical problem, the customer service agent can use the Service Cloud to bring coworkers into the loop, escalate the problem as necessary, work out a solution (or better yet, find a previously existing solution), and then deliver a link to that solution right to the customer's Twitter page. And because Chatter enables you to follow a customer service request the same way you follow a twitter feed, workers can track progress on the request and get notified every time there's a status change.
While there is no official release date for Salesforce Chatter yet, it is currently scheduled to be generally available sometime this year, and it will be included in all paid editions of Salesforce CRM and Force.com.