Chatter.com, customer relationship management software provider Salesforce’s enterprise-style social network, is going live on Monday and the company is sparing no expense to try to capture a market that has mostly jumped on board with other collaboration startups like Yammer and Box.net.
Chatter.com is basically a stripped down version of Chatter in Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) service. The site is pegged as a Facebook-style social network for businesses that makes it easier for employees to communicate and share files amongst themselves. Like Yammer and other collaboration services, the site allows users to upload and share files, comment on them and view up-to-date activity streams.
Users enter their work email address into a sign-up box on Chatter.com and get going from there — just like Yammer. They can set up a profile, complete with all the bells and whistles Facebook has. Chatter.com was officially announced at Dreamforce in December, but details were pretty sparse.
While Salesforce doesn’t want there to be a limit on how many files users can upload, there is a theoretical limit that free Chatter.com users can reach, said Kraig Swensrud, senior vice president of product marketing at Salesforce. So it’s similar to other sites that use a freemium model to attract new users — Salesforce just isn’t being explicit in what the limit is.
“We don’t want to be in the business of charging for storage, we want everyone to use the cloud for storage,” Swensrud said. “It’s a more efficient model, it’s been proven on the web by Dropbox and Gmail.”
Users can preview files on the website without having to own the software to view it and edit it on their computers. That includes software like Microsoft Word, Adobe Illustrator and others. The free version on Chatter.com won’t sync up with Salesforce’s CRM software — which the company hopes will be enough of a hook to bring in new customers.
“Photo-sharing was the killer app for Facebook,” Swensrud said. “We think file-sharing will the killer app for these enterprise-class Facebook networks like Chatter.”
Most major players in the collaboration space have already focused on providing efficient file-sharing tools. Box.net, for example, is a pure enterprise-style Dropbox with some additional micro-blogging features duct taped on top. Yammer also has file-sharing features, as does Huddle. The primary play here is to try to snag new customers for Salesforce’s main CRM software — the market for Chatter has around 65 million businesses, Swensrud said.
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. Salesforce then turned the service loose on the freemium revenue model in order to compete with other collaboration startups (it cost non-Salesforce users $15 per user per month beforehand.)
Chatter.com users will also be able to dive into the mobile applications on the iPad, iPhone and BlackBerry without having to pay for the official Chatter service. Like Chatter.com, mobile free Chatter users will just get access to a stripped down version of the main Chatter service that isn’t connected to Salesforce’s CRM software. Swensrud was still mum as to when Chatter would appear on devices running Google’s Android mobile operating system — though the application was announced at Dreamforce last year.
To attract those new customers, Salesforce is running Chatter advertisements just before and after the Black-Eyed Peas perform at this year’s Super Bowl half-time show. It’s a pretty decent chunk of change on advertising — advertisements run during the Super Bowl typically cost close to $3 million per spot. The advertisement features the Black-Eyed Peas and front-man Will.i.am — who has actually been quite active in the Silicon Valley scene and recently joined Intel as director of creative innovation.