Salesforce Debuts 'Chatter' For Building Corporate Social Networks


Salesforce.com is jumping into the social networking arena with Salesforce Chatter, a new development platform for building secure, private social networks and collaboration applications.

Salesforce debuted Chatter Wednesday to the 19,000-plus attendees of Dreamforce, the vendor's annual conference in San Francisco. To make its point about Chatter, Salesforce handed out thousands of plastic, wind-up false teeth at the conference.

"Why isn't there a Facebook for the enterprise?" Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said in his Dreamforce keynote. "Why isn't there a Twitter for the enterprise? Why is it I know more about all these strangers on Facebook than I do about the employees in my own company? I know when my friends have gone to the movies, but I don't know when my VP of sales has gone to visit a key customer. Something is wrong."

Modeled on Web-based consumer social networking sites like Facebook, Salesforce Chatter provides a way for organizations to build their own networks of user profiles, employee groups, status updates and news feeds, the company said.

Businesses can use the platform to develop social enterprise applications that run natively on Salesforce's Force.com "platform-as-a-service" cloud computing system. Data from business applications can be pushed into Chatter feeds using the platform's APIs. Salesforce also said all 135,000 native Force.com applications would instantly become "social" by working with Chatter.

"Your people, your apps and your content all integrated," Benioff said. Noting that Salesforce's CRM and service applications are integrated with Chatter, Benioff said: "We've repositioned customer relationship management as collaboration relationship management."

Organizations will be able to filter relevant Twitter feeds into a Chatter application. A user, for example, could set up a Twitter search for a competitor and stream the results into a Chatter application, Salesforce said. Users also can pull information from Facebook profiles to populate Chatter profiles.

Salesforce Chatter is slated to be available in 2010, reportedly sometime in the first quarter. It will be available in all paid editions of Salesforce CRM and Force.com, and Salesforce will create a new Chatter Edition that combines Chatter, Salesforce Content and Force.com priced at $50 per user per month.

Salesforce also used Dreamforce as the launchpad for Sales Cloud 2 and Service Cloud 2, updates to the vendor's popular Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CRM and service applications. The new release of the sales application offers real-time quote capability, the ability to view documents from the Salesforce CRM content library through mobile devices, new charting and report-building features, and a "partner finder" capability that helps users identify partners to connect and share information with.

The announcements came one day after Salesforce reported that its sales reached $330.5 million in its third quarter ended Oct. 31, up 20 percent from $276.5 million in the same period one year ago. That gives the company an annual sales run rate of $1.3 billion. Earnings in the third quarter more than doubled to $20.7 million from $10.1 million one year ago.