Is Chatter.com poised to become the next Facebook?

Look out, Facebook. Here comes Chatter.com.Chatter - Salesforce's Facebook-like networking and collaboration platform - has already been on the fast-track for growth, reaching its tentacles deeper into companies for faster adoption of its cloud services.

Look out, Facebook. Here comes Chatter.com.

Chatter - Salesforce's Facebook-like networking and collaboration platform - has already been on the fast-track for growth, reaching its tentacles deeper into companies for faster adoption of its cloud services. Next week, it will go even deeper with the announcement of chatter.com - a new domain name - and open it to anyone with a business email address.

Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? Remember when Facebook was only open to students with a ".edu" email address?

Salesforce makes no secret that Chatter was pretty much built out of the molds of Facebook and Twitter, complete with a news feed, profiles and “following” capabilities. But Salesforce has moved quickly to enhance the product for business customers by incorporating collaboration and communications features into Chatter, as well.

When Chatter became generally available in June of last year, it was only open to employees who were using Salesforce tools - largely sales departments - in a company. Realizing that other employees could also benefit from knowing some of the information being shared about clients or products, the company was unveiling Chatter 2 by September, opening Chatter to the full employee base - charging a per-user, per-month license for those who weren't users of the Facebook tools.

At the Dreamforce conference in December, the company was unveiling a free version for those same employees. And now, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the company will open the service to pretty much anyone with a job.

It's an interesting approach because Salesforce is gambling on that "consumerization of enterprise" approach. Consumers - at least 500 million of them - who are increasingly comfortable with the Facebook platform at home can also be comfortable with in it a work setting. By dangling a "Facebook for the office" experience in front of them, there's greater likelihood that employees will adopt and then get their bosses to take note - and, in the process, those employers might look at other Salesforce services\

At the top of this post, I suggested that Facebook should watch out for Chatter.com. Just a couple of days ago, in a rant of frustration about the privacy settings on Facebook (imagine that!), I suggested that Facebook has already become the defacto site for social networking and that those who are there won't leave simply over some pesky settings.

Or would they? Remember, I noted, MySpace used to hold that title.

Clearly, in the world of technology, very few things are forever. Once you get popular or go mainstream, there's a number of people waiting in the wings to try to unseat you. Could Chatter be the product that will keep Facebook honest?

Chatter.com will be announced Jan. 31, the WSJ reported, but will make its splashy entrance with a set of Super Bowl commercials. In the WSJ post, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said:

We really need to launch Chatter.com in a big way. I can’t think of anything bigger to do than launch it at the Super Bowl.

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