Salesforce launching Chatter.com, an enterprise-style Facebook, early next year

Oh how the tables have turned.

Salesforce announced that it is launching an enterprise-style social networking service like Facebook that, at first glance, looks quite similar to Yammer. It made the announcement at the Dreamforce 2010 conference today.

Salesforce has already been feeling a lot of pressure from Yammer, which recently secured a massive $25 million funding round as a vote of confidence for its Facebook-for-enterprises style offering. The company has around 1.5 million corporate users, and around 80 percent of the largest companies in the world on the Fortune 500 list have deployed the service. More than 100,000 companies total use the service in 136 countries.

To compete initially with Yammer and make a splash in the collaboration space, the company launched Chatter, a micro-blogging service. The service quickly picked up around 60,000 customers, and its biggest customer, Dell, has around 100,000 active users. The rest of its paying clients have around 5,000 active users, according to a presentation at today’s conference.

But Salesforce was recently forced to turn the service loose on the freemium revenue model to compete with players like Yammer, which let companies try the service before they pay for it. Originally, Chatter was only available for Salesforce users. Other users had to pay $15 per user per month for the service. Yammer and some other collaboration services were free to try and would let users upgrade, which made it hard to justify jumping in and paying for Chatter off the bat.

Chatter.com is free for everyone to try, much like Yammer. From there, Chatter.com users can upgrade to Chatter pro, the traditional service that costs $15 per user per month. They can also upgrade to Salesforce’s other customer relationship management (CRM) software products.

Chatter is already available on the iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry. It’s a pretty slick application and does its job effectively. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, said the application would be available on Android in the first quarter next year. Chatter.com should launch in February next year, according to Benioff. But it seems that Salesforce might be a bit late to the game on this one, with Yammer already dominating the space.


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