SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

Summary: SharePoint 2010 supports a robust social media experience out of the box for organizations. SharePoint Online brings this approach to the cloud. Scale it enough and you have the next Facebook.


As the value of Facebook outside of learning to maintain a virtual farm or keeping virtual mobsters at bay unravels, it's become clear that social media need a trusted, solid, robust platform. As I wrote earlier this week,

It’s time for an alternative and it’s time that we demand that social media not only meet our needs but meet their own potential in personal, business, and educational markets.

While I put my money on Google to deliver such an alternative, Jason Perlow put Microsoft at the top of his short list for the next big thing in social media. The key, regardless of who built it, was to provide a toolkit that could be localized and sandboxed for organizations or generalized for public consumption. The platform had to be something everyone was using anyway for it to add value in schools, just as Facebook could have if the privacy concerns and noise didn't wipe out any potential it had.

Currently, SharePoint Online is a subscription service for businesses and schools (Live@Edu is built on many of its technologies). Like a locally-hosted instance of SharePoint 2010, it provides users with the capability to share pages, updates, and media and to aggregate their own social streams. It also allows users to collaborate on documents within this social structure. It's quite easy to imagine not only a free version that leverages Windows Live services, but provides a familiar and easily integrated interface for users deploying SharePoint in their organization.

Taking my musings a step further, let's imagine that some version of SharePoint can gain traction as a mainstream social media tool. Students are using it, teachers are using, parents are using get the point. Now imagine that a school embraces Live@Edu, or better yet, SharePoint (or some combination thereof) and takes advantage of new federation services available from Microsoft to allow students and staff to sign into school collaboration environments with their existing personal SharePoint accounts. Obviously, this is all a bit pie in the sky, but it's a completely reasonable scenario and one that would provide safe, secure, no-nonsense interactions between students, teachers, and parents within the context of a platform that they are using already.

Will this fly? Maybe...A look at SharePoint's technologies and available out-of-the-box social functionality certainly suggests some interesting possibilities for schools (and businesses and organizations for that matter). With Microsoft now pushing the concept of SharePoint as a platform for development (and a large and growing developer ecosystem) and their scalable SharePoint Online offering, I don't think I'm that far out in left field.

Talk back and let me know if you agree.

Topics: Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Software, Social Enterprise

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Plus an iPhone Sharepoint app, an Android app and so on and on

    So, Will this fly?<br><br>Nope, Facebook is a consumer play while Sharepoint is an enterprise play. It will never be able to replace Facebook. Sorry!
    OS Reload
    • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

      @OS Reload

      Replace..maybe not..but many of Live's services compete with Facebook pretty well. Besides they are going after two different markets and since you can link your facebook with your live account you can get the best of both worlds.
    • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

      @OS Reload Do you know how many times I heard the term "The consumerization of IT" from Microsoft folks at the Office/SharePoint launch? I don't buy that there won't be a convergence of the consumer and enterprise technologies.
    • This will fly

      It will fly because this comparison is only on the general functional level, not the market the two platforms target. People are used to sharing stuff on Facebook, Twitter and plenty other social media. Companies can benefit from this behavior, stimulating employees to share knowledge. To get a good overview of the SharePoint platform I recommend reading this:
  • This school is looking at it...

    Sites for each class, assignment and homework submission, a district wide intranet for forms, docs, and processes. Add in the real time collaboration, presence, integration with MS office - there's a lot of value there. Opening this collaborative portal to the outside so students and teachers can work from anywhere, and you've got quite a nice little setup.
  • You are kidding Right (getting old zdnet)

    You are joking right!!! You guys still do not get it. The best way to get back in-touch with what the people want, is to loose the suits and come compute-with-us. Technology is no longer just a tool, it's an extension of the individual.
    • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative


      exactly...that is why embracing social networking for schools and even businesses is a good thing. It allows for an individual to work in a more relaxed and every day atmosphere that they can relate to. Not the rigid file servers and emailing back and forth and IM. Puts every type of communication tool at their fingertips in one easy(er) to use interface.

      Now if Microsoft and SharePoint can provide these tools to schools and businesses with some level of Admin control so they can assist their end users and if there is ever a problem they can manage it on the back end then I am all for it.

      I have SharePoint 2007 services and so far our users like it better than traditional methods of sharing documents and collaboration.

      So far Live@Edu has been a hit as well with our teachers as you can read in my posts below.

      I think you have to work in education to understand where Microsoft is going with this. I, along with many other schools that I work with, are all looking forward to what this brings to our future.
  • You gotta be kidding

    You think people should trust a proprietary product from Microsoft? You don't understand the problem.
    • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative


      actually I do not think you understand.

      Social networking has been a topic in education across the united states for the past couple years. The problem was sites like FaceBook and MySpace could not offer everything a school or even a business needs. I believe Microsoft has a product that can do that.

      Get all of the good and none or very little of the bad if you know what I mean. See my post below for more information.
    • But Google and Facebook are to be trusted?

      Well, the proof is in the news these last few months that they are the absolute [i]last[/i] companies that should be trusted!
  • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

    As a school that currently uses SharePoint (Internally) and Live@Edu I think this will be a big addition for schools and education. I think it will finally give education a product that they can utilize the benefits of social networking in a more secure and controlled environment and keep out all the time wasting aspects that Facebook and other social networks are about. When you are dealing with students that are in some cases minors security and some level of administrative control is a necessity. We block general email and IM for students and most social network sites from even staff.

    Currently Live@Edu has given my High School the ability to provide secure email to our students and opened up avenues of communication between students and teachers that were not possible before. In the past we had students email teachers their homework or just some general information and frequently they would forget to tell the teacher who they are. The teacher could not tell who the student was from their private email most of the time because they would use email addresses like or whatever. This made it easy for teachers to email students using their ID numbers and now students can email staff and save files online and access them from anywhere.

    I for one am very excited about the SharePoint Online and Office Web Apps enhancements coming to Live Services.
  • For once I agree with Chris Dawson...

    The prospect of which seems so unlikely to me it's almost like eating crow!

    But you seem to be on the right track with this post. Microsoft is once again, way ahead of the competition. While most players are desperately trying to build web apps from scratch to provide a front end to new web services, Microsoft is the only company with the sense to realize that everything doesn't have to be built on the web. We don't need web apps. We need desktop apps that integrate with web services and utilize our always-on high-speed connections to simplify our lives.
    Sharepoint is the service that will make that seamless data integration a reality. Since by and large, social networking is about exposing our data to others, it makes sense to build a social network around the service we use to store and share data between our own devices and apps.
    It also makes sense to build a social network around an enterprise class product. Businesses rely on Sharepoint for its security and flexibility. Consumers want the same assurance that their data is secure and that they can share certain information with only certain people.
    Microsoft is a new company with vision and clarity about converging technologies to simplify people's lives. It's an exciting time to be watching Microsoft.
  • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

    I love when people say "it will never happen". We are building this very idea for a school division in Canada right now on SharePoint 2010. The prime objective is to connect the parents and students with the school board. Not having a social feedback forum was a deal breaker for the stakeholders and we are well on the way to have a social forum that not only engages the immediate community (school division) but also other school divisions in the province as well as the ministry of education (longer term objectives).
    As soon as someone says it can't be done there are at least 10 other people already building it. Lead, follow, or get out of the way
  • Oh great!

    More reliance on Microsoft and perpetuating the technical co-dependency that has plagued us for years! NO-FREAKIN-THANKS!!!
  • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

    Thanks for your article. It's food for thought - but, Sharepoint doesn't seem to be even related to what Facebook does or provides. There is the possibility (even a strong possibility) that your vision has passed over my head, but from my initial investigation of Sharepoint it seems to be a modernised version of Moodle designed for businesses - it also seems to need at least one full time IT person to maintain it. In the hope that I'm missing something I'll take a minute to explain my thoughts a bit.
    I have a side business of training people in the areas of film budgeting, film production management, etc. As with any business, including the business side of convincing students that your institution is worth the tuition, I need to reach out extensively into the film community over a large geographical area (Canada and the USA). It entails blasting far and wide, thus the big need to know social marketing techniques with Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. Once the "students" enroll over the internet (usually they're everyday working people trying to enter into film production or expand their skill base in that environment) I deliver either in person in their geographical area, or through live webinars (I call it "Live On-Line Training") which I record and make available with password protection. So, Sharepoint seems to be more a way of organizing and delivering than promoting/networking.
    Hopefully, I have missed your vision and I am happy to be corrected.
    BTW, if anyone knows of simplified ways to do live webcasts (as opposed to webinars) I would love to hear about it.
    • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative


      You have to use it to understand. If you combine the services of Microsoft Live/Live@Edu with SharePoint then you can see the whole picture. There are many parts to sharepoint and even with SharePoint 2007 users can have a "MySite" which they can create with information about them and pictures and then add private and public document libraries, links, and information to share within their corporate network. So if you think about it SharePoint does do some of the Social Networking aspects albeit a bit differently than Facebook is doing it. Microsoft and Sharepoint along with its cloud services like Live and Live@Edu are focusing on the "productive" side of social networking instead of the farmville, Mafia Wars, and joining every useless group or fan page of social networking.
  • Maybe

    Facebook is almost useless for business, and it's certainly true that Microsoft could make social networking more useful. However, individuals who happen to be corporate employees want their personal data completely separate from corporate data, and many businesses would probably want that as well. And many of us who could benefit most from social networking (such as the self-employed, like myself) have multiple business affiliations. No one (well, no one with a life) wants to maintain multiple online social networking personas. How do you reconcile that?

    I haven't known Microsoft to be creative enough to figure that out, but they could surprise me and I certainly don't want to under-estimate the smart people there. But in truth I'm more optimistic about that group of college students trying to create an open platform.
  • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative

    talk about hit and miss....way off the mark here....mind you...would not use facebook in an education context. Except maybe is an example of a site you need to be really careful

    Keep talking Moodle and Google seem to get that right most of the time......
  • LOL

    Sharepoint, open, social, extensible, easily integrated, and oh yeah free.

    Such words don't go in the same fragmented sentence with Sharepoint.

    I'll choose alternatives that a) run on multiple platforms, b) are open source, c) have no licensing costs, and d) have free documentation and technical manuals.
    • RE: SharePoint 2010: There's your Facebook alternative


      Have you tried it. We used Free OpenSource Alternatives to try and piece together and accomplish a fraction of what Sharepoint does when combined with MS Office, Exchange/Outlook, and Office Communicator. The comparison was day and night.

      Did our internal setup cost some money. Yes it did. Does it work as it is supposed to. Yes it does. Can't say that with some of the alternatives out there. Spent more time trying to make it work than actually using it. With Microsoft and Sharepoint it was literally set up, click off a few settings and integrate with active directory and walla. Before we had users calling for support on how to do this and that and those calls have dropped dramatically and now my time is more free.

      If they can bring some of that functionality to Live@Edu and allow it to communicate with Sharepoint services within the organization then I am all for it.

      If you can achieve the same with your open source alternatives then good for you.