Enterprise software's interface risk: Going hogwild mimicking Facebook

As I approach my 1 millionth briefing about how all businesses will be social and how enterprise apps are like Facebook, I can't help but wonder what happens if we all get sick of Mark Zuckerberg's creation at once.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

What will happen to enterprise applications if Facebook jumps the shark?

It's a question worth asking as I get my 1 millionth software briefing (slight exaggeration) about how enterprise software is becoming social. Salesforce.com Marc Benioff popularized the Facebook influence on enterprise software and now every SaaS player has a spin on the theme.

To wit:

  • Salesforce.com's Chatter looks a lot like Facebook with a dash of Twitter.
  • SuccessFactors' latest release looks Facebook-ish.
  • Core enterprise software players ranging from IBM to Microsoft to SAP have cribbed some of the Facebook UI.

Add it up and it looks like Mark Zuckerberg is designing a lot of enterprise software these days. We want to be so social in the enterprise that we're outsourcing design to Facebook.

What's the problem? Here's a theory: At some point Facebook could become AOL. Perhaps the masses get tired of Facebook. Perhaps we all realize that Facebook wastes big chunks of your life 15 minutes at a time. Maybe social networking in business kills productivity. Designing enterprise software around the Facebook motif could be the equivalent of cribbing the AOL user interface back in the late 1990s.

Today that "we're sick of Facebook UI" moment seems far off. Facebook is the air we breathe online. Then again so was AOL at one time. And given enterprise software players can take their time to update interfaces you may be stuck with Facebook-ish themes well beyond their useful life.


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