Facebook gets open-source enterprise app

Alfresco hopes its Facebook integration will let companies use the popular social-networking platform to help rather than hinder enterprise productivity

The open-source enterprise content management firm Alfresco has announced what it claims is the first enterprise application to use the Facebook platform.

The London-based enterprise content management (ECM) company has integrated its system with the popular social-networking site, using open application programming interfaces (APIs) and a custom markup language published by Facebook in May. Alfresco says it hopes this move will harness the burgeoning social-networking movement in a secure, auditable way.

"With Facebook, companies can engage with their customers, partners and employees to share social connections, as well as content, and track what is going on in the enterprise," said John Newton, Alfresco's chief technology officer, on Wednesday. "For example, our new ECM-enabled access to Facebook lets an organisation take the latest news or catalogue information from inside the corporation and easily publish it both internally and externally to keep stakeholders informed."

Facebook, like other social-networking communities, has had a mixed reception in the enterprise. According to recent research by the security firm Sophos, half of employers ban or restrict access to Facebook, citing security and productivity implications as the main reasons for this approach. However, some companies have embraced the platform as a way to communicate internally, reasoning that it's better to engage with users and attempt to disseminate good security practices through the platform, rather than try to ban it.

According to a statement from Alfresco: "Forward-looking enterprises believe that social networking provides a ready-made knowledge-management platform for their workers, which will increase adoption rates to the levels that knowledge management was always meant to achieve".

Alfresco's integration of the Facebook platform into its own software includes functionality ranging from single sign-on to application registration and document uploading. It also lets employees view documents recently uploaded by colleagues and friends through a Facebook news feed.

Datamonitor's lead analyst in vertical markets technology, Nicole Engelbert, said on Wednesday that "while social-networking websites have typically been perceived as attractive to a predominately younger consumer market, if leveraged properly, these services may provide the enterprise market with a potentially powerful and cost-effective solution to its collaboration and content-management needs."

Microsoft recently bought a $240m (£118m) stake in Facebook in a bid to strengthen its foothold in the web space.