Box takes a lesson from Facebook, adds newsfeed to collaboration tool

Box rolls out some updates to its cloud-based content management and collaboration service, taking a cue from Facebook's newsfeed.

For some time now, there's been a trend among companies to go "social." The problem is that no one really knows how to do that, other than to find a way to integrate Twitter and Facebook into the offerings in some shape or form.

But Box, an online file-sharing and collaboration service that's rolling out some updates today, has taken one piece of the Facebook model - the news feed - and applied it to its content management service.

On Facebook, the newsfeed is where we learn that a friend posted shared a link, uploaded a photo or even posted something on someone else's wall. The Box newsfeed isn't as "social," as much as it is informative about the documents that people are sharing and working on.

For example, a person's newsfeed might tell the user that Joe updated some figures in the budget spreadsheet, that Jane shared one of the documents with Mary or that Bill uploaded the presentation slide to the folder. It's information that each of the user needs to know and, more importantly, it keeps Bill from having to send an email to the group to let them know that the new file is ready for them to preview,

In a sense, it's one piece of what Google was trying to pull off with Wave - a product that the company has already canned over poor adoption. The secret to the Box formula: don't try to do it all. Instead, focus on what you do best.

Box knows its role in the collaboration game and, more importantly, knows what it's not. That's not to say that it can't pull off what Google tried to do with Wave over time, but for now it seems focused on simply giving users the tools to collaborate efficiently.

That, of course, leaves Box with its sights set on Microsoft's SharePoint, a product that it calls "cumbersome," "overloaded" and confusing. From the company's blog post, penned by co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie:

SharePoint has attempted to address the social challenge by cramming more features on its already over-crowded and over-complicated platform, requiring more labor from users to "be social." We're taking the exact opposite approach. We want intelligent and collaborative content management to be the core of our offering, not an add-on. Our roadmap and vision is not about bringing Twitter or microblogging to our customers, or even adding social networking to Box. This is about surfacing the right information to the right people in real-time, without any extra effort on the user's part.

The company said that its push to expand its offerings is a "multi-stage" effort and that there are "some exciting possibilities" for integrating other feed provider, content apps such as Google and Zoho and devices such as the iPad.