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Salesforce.com‘s in-development product Chatter is the latest in a long line of applications advertised as a “Facebook for businesses.” And now Salesforce is opening up a marketplace for Chatter apps built by outside developers, called the ChatterExchange.

Chatter is still an early product — only 500 companies have been admitted into the testing program so far, with a waiting list of another 1,000, said Ariel Kelman, Salesforce’s vice president of platform product marketing. But these early apps (12 right now) give some sense of Chatter’s potential. For example, one of the most promising features in Chatter is the fact that users don’t just see random status updates from their coworkers, but also notifications whenever anyone does something significant in an important document or account.

“The feed really is transformative,” Kelman said. “You’re telling it what’s important to you, and then the information is pushed to you.”

An application called Chatterbox adds a layer of automation to that process for Salesforce’s sales software and other applications built on Salesforce’s Force.com platform. So a Chatterbox user receives automatic real-time notifications based on how they customize the app. You could get an update in your news feed whenever there’s a sales deal worth more than $50,000 set to close this quarter, or when there’s a new customer in your territory. Then, because it’s in your news feed, you can have a discussion with your team members in Chatter about the deal or the customer or whatever.

Chatterbox was created by a startup called FinancialForce.com, which spun out from business software company Unit4 and is funded by Unit4 and Salesforce. The company’s chief executive, Jeremy Roche, told me FinancialForce initially conceived Chatterbox as a notification tool solely for its accounting application, but found it was easy to add support for any other Force.com app. The combination of the Chatterbox notifications and Chatter discussions should put an end to “fragmented email trails,” Roche said.

You can see Chatterbox in action in the video below.


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