Facebook is doing everything it can to monopolize your time online, ramping up efforts in video, messaging, and news, among other media. Now it’s unveiling a whole new portal that officially acknowledges what you already do anyway: spend all your time at work on Facebook. Called Facebook at Work, the service announced Wednesday works pretty much just like regular Facebook, except you use it to connect to colleagues who may or may not be friends. Most important of all, the color scheme is different, which lets your boss looking over your shoulder know that, even though you’re on Facebook, you’re still “working.”
For now, Facebook says it’s making Facebook at Work available to a handful of partners, who will be testing the product ahead of its full-blown launch, tentatively slated for later this year. Facebook itself says it’s been using Facebook at Work internally for years.
“We have found that using Facebook as a work tool makes our work day more efficient,” Lars Rasmussen, Facebook’s director of engineering, tells WIRED. “You can get more stuff done with Facebook than any other tool that we know of, and we’d like to make that available to the whole world.”
“Efficiency” and “spending time on Facebook at work” may sound like a contradiction in terms. But if Facebook can actually make a tool that helps people get things done at the office, the company will have succeeded in finding a way to command even more of your screen time, especially if you’re not constantly worrying about minimizing that window. Facebook makes money when you see and click ads on the site, whether you’re at work or at home. The more time your eyes are on Facebook, the more of your attention it can monetize.
The way Rasmussen explains it, Facebook at Work has the same look, apps, and tools as the Facebook we’ve seen before. It will exist as a separate portal on the desktop, as well as on separate apps for iPhones and Android devices. A mobile Web version will also be available. The only thing that looks different is the color scheme of Facebook at Work’s interface, which is shaded white instead of Facebook’s trademark blue — making it easy for employers to tell whether you’re on “personal Facebook” or Facebook at Work with a glance.
Other than that, the same familiar features are all in place, including News Feed, Search, Groups, Events, Messenger, and photo and video sharing functions. But you’ll have a separate Facebook identity specifically for sharing with colleagues. According to Rasmussen, you don’t actually have to have a personal Facebook account at all to use Facebook at Work if your company decides to sign up for the service.
Facebook at Work will revolve around colleagues in much the same way that regular Facebook revolves around family and friends. For example, your News Feed will populate with posts shared by the coworkers who you already interact with the most, Rasmussen says. The posts that see more shares will spread further, until the entire company might see it.
For Facebook, a move into enterprise makes a whole lot of sense as it seeks new avenues for expansion. Facebook’s monthly active user base stands at 1.35 billion, according to the company, but growth has slowed as the addressable market of users not already on Facebook dwindles. Work is one place Facebook still has not reached out to potential users, at least not officially.
Once users do sign up, however, they are by far the most engaged compared with any other social network. According to a recent Pew Research survey, 70 percent of them logged on daily, a significant increase from the 63 percent who did so in 2013. This suggests that, with 52 percent of online adults using some kind of social media site, Facebook still acts as a kind of online home base for many.
Still, unlike a plethora of work-themed social networking tools — including LinkedIn, Salesforce’s Chatter, Microsoft’s Yammer, and the popular messaging tool Slack — Facebook has been harder for its users to justify using at the office. Even Rasmussen acknowledges the problem. “Some people are less comfortable than others using their personal Facebook in the work context,” he says. “With Facebook at Work, you get the option of completely separating the two.”
With so many Web services competing for people’s attention, both at home and at work, Facebook really has no choice but to head to the office. The company has shown a peerless ability to fuse people’s personal lives and online lives. If it can do the same for our work lives, that’s at least eight more hours we spend glued to Facebook. Which is exactly what Facebook hopes we’ll do.
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