Yammer is Not Just Facebook for Enterprises: A Deep Dive with CEO David Sacks

10/13/11Follow @wroush

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what are the top groups you work with. I can drill into the sales, design, product management, or marketing groups and see what’s happening in those groups.

X: You’ve obviously borrowed a lot of conventions from Facebook and Twitter, such as the “@” mention.

DS: The user interface is Facebook-like, but customized for a business purpose. There are alerts, notifications, private messages. There’s a feed of the groups you’re in and the people and topics you’re following. You can post documents to the feed-files, images, videos, polls, events, ideas, links, questions. But there are no ads, which creates more real estate for sidebar modules.

So for anybody who has used Facebook or Twitter, this will seem familiar. But the key thing is that your Yammer network is completely self-contained to your company. It’s enterprise software—it’s not a public social network.

X: Just for the sake of argument, what’s stopping companies from using Facebook itself for the things you’re talking about—perhaps by creating private groups?

DS: The requirements between public social networking and internal networking are very different. Every business should have a presence on Facebook; you would be crazy not to. But the purpose of that presence is brand marketing and creating a public face, just like you would create a website so that the world can discover your products. That’s a very different use case from private, internal social networking for collaboration. Companies want to be able to own their own internal collaboration, and Facebook is not something they can own in the same way. I see them as solving very different types of problems, even though they are using some of the same concepts.

X: You spoke about document sharing within the Yammer feed. That leads me to ask about the differences between Yammer and some of the document sharing startups we hear a lot about today, like Dropbox and Box.net.

DS: We are not trying to be anyone’s personal hard drive. That’s the big difference. If you look at Dropbox or Box.net, they ideally would like to have all of your documents. We are not trying to be a complete content management system. We are trying to be a content sharing system.

To give you an analogy, your photo collection probably lives in iPhoto. But if you want to share photos you’ll do it on Facebook. Your personal photo repository will have the canonical, high-resolution collection, but you put them on Facebook because it’s easier to share. That’s what Yammer is trying to do with files. We’re not trying to replace your company file directory, but we’re going to make it really easy to share files with the relevant people inside your company.

But our plan is to integrate with those content management systems—we already have a pretty deep SharePoint integration and we are talking with Box.net about integration with them as well. We already have an app that runs on Box.net, and the next thing would be to have it go the other way around, and have a Box.net app that runs on Yammer.

X: A lot of companies besides Yammer are paying attention to the Facebook example. Box.net has been building some social features into their service. And of course, Salesforce.com has Chatter, the social networking feed built into its sales automation system. If all of these other enterprise applications are building in their own collaboration tools, where does that leave Yammer?

DS: Here’s the way we think that should work. Every vertical enterprise tool, whether it’s Box.net or Salesforce.com or whatever, they are all moving to a model where they … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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