Facebook at Work, set to be released in January 2015, could not only pose a threat to LinkedIn, but also Google Docs, Microsoft Office, and other collaborative software.

Facebook at Work – What Is It?

Usually, when you hear the words “Facebook at work” you automatically think of people using the network to socialize when they should be working. But Facebook has decided to turn the phrase on its head by offering a new business-oriented version of the software.

Facebook at Work will have a similar look and feel to the social platform, from the color scheme to the news feed and group pages. But the function of this new platform will be entirely geared towards businesses.

Here are a few features and details that Facebook has released so far:

  • The ability to chat with colleagues
  • Online document collaboration
  • So far, there are no ads on the service
  • Confidentiality and privacy management tools will likely be included in the final product
  • Separate personal and business profiles

By moving into the professional networking and online collaboration space, Facebook is not just competing with the professional network LinkedIn and collaborative software developers such as Google or Microsoft. It is also positioning itself more and more as a multi-industry conglomerate.

Facebook vs. Google vs. Microsoft

When Facebook at Work launches, it will contribute to the company’s growing multi-industry market share.

Most certainly, Facebook at Work will be added to Facebook’s growing constellation of mobile apps. Large companies, from Google to Twitter, are attempting to dominate users’ screens by offering multiple services and multiple apps for those services.

This has been called the “App Constellation” strategy by some: a large company unbundles separate services into distinct apps. Facebook, for instance, saw a sharp jump in popularity when it unbundled Facebook Messenger from its main app.

The app constellation approach works for a few reasons. Separate, dedicated apps allow companies to deliver better experiences to the end user. More apps eat up more screen space, they consume more customer attention, and they allow people to pick and choose which apps they want to use.

Facebook Entering the Online Collaboration Space

On the one hand, Facebook’s entry into the B2B space gives it more market share in the multi-industry, “essential services” space, as mentioned above. But Facebook’s considerable market share also puts it in competition with online collaboration specialists, such as IBM and Zoho.

With the company’s considerable budget and software expertise, Facebook would have no trouble developing a set of useful business collaboration tools. And with the social network’s pre-existing user base, the company can easily turn its new business platform into a major player in the online collaboration industry.

Major companies such as Google or Microsoft have their hands in other industries. But smaller companies whose primary function is online collaboration will face some serious threats if Facebook at Work takes off. After all, if Facebook begins offering professional networking as well as online collaboration – or even its own office suite – there would be fewer and fewer reasons to use less popular online collaboration tools.

In order to stay competitive, companies that focus on online collaboration would need to specialize even further to differentiate themselves from the dominant collaboration tools.

Facebook vs. LinkedIn

Facebook will also be competing with LinkedIn, which currently holds a monopoly in the professional networking space.

Though LinkedIn does offer its own suite of apps, this network stays focused on the professionals. With over 332 million registered members and more than two new registrations every second, LinkedIn doesn’t show any sign of slowing. Part of the reason for this could be because no other company could compete…until now.

Google+ never really succeeded as a social network. And Twitter, though it has had a committed following in the past, has been faltering lately: it is male-dominated and less popular among U.S. adults than LinkedIn.

This leaves Facebook, which claims over 2 billion users worldwide. In other words, one out of three people in the world use this social network. If any company is in a position to threaten LinkedIn, then it’s certainly Facebook.

Part of Facebook’s problem in the past has been its inability to handle the business crowd. It has tried to be too much to too many people, leading people to create multiple Facebook profiles in order to separate their work lives and their social lives. And businesses have faced hurdle after hurdle when attempting to create Facebook Pages, reach customers, and network with other professionals.

The move toward Facebook at Work is a logical one that may help the tech giant overcome its obstacles in the business world.

Facebook’s considerable social presence, financial resources, and software expertise could help the company secure a permanent position inside the workplace. While Facebook at Work is still in beta, it certainly has the potential to develop a useful set of tools that threaten other business-to-business companies, from LinkedIn to IBM and even Google.