Salesforce.com is giving 5,000 developers access to its social networking and collaboration platform, so they can build capabilities normally associated with Facebook and Twitter into enterprise applications.
The software giant launched its developer preview of Chatter on Monday, giving those developers access to the development environment of its social development platform. Since February, it has had a small number of developers working on a private beta, but Monday's announcement marks the start of a much wider project.
Chatter will let the developers integrate status updates and feeds into any of the 135,000 Force.com applications. Salesforce.com hopes this will let employees use social media to collaborate much more effectively than at present.
In particular, employees using a social media-enabled application from Salesforce.com will be able to post their contact information and areas of expertise, form groups with people with whom they would like to collaborate, offer status updates so colleagues know what they are working on, and sign up to feeds from relevant colleagues, applications or content streams. For example, an application could post an update when there is a change in status on a particular job — for instance, when the job is closed or escalated. Users could also receive an update when a particular document is changed.
Salesforce.com said the creation of Chatter was a response to interest from developers about integrating social networking into the enterprise. "Developers have been asking: 'Why can't we build enterprise apps that are more like Facebook?'" chief executive Marc Benioff said. "With Chatter, they can."
The company intends to fully launch Chatter later in 2010, though it gave no specific timescale. The platform will be included in all paid editions of Salesforce CRM and Force.com, the company said.
Using Chatter would let developers write applications up to five times faster than if they were using .NET or other software development platforms, the company said. Salesforce.com also unveiled the Chatter DevZone, a community for developers to collaborate on building social-networking applications for enterprises.
Philip Ludlow, director of Deloitte's custom management team, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that organisations will increasingly need a formal strategy for how they integrate the social networking aspects of CRM into their enterprise.
"It is not possible to say that in five years the tool will be Facebook or Twitter or Salesforce.com, but there will be an increase in the use of social networks," Ludlow said.