Facebook Testing Free Version of Its Slack Competitor

The workplace messenger war rages on.

In light of the Microsoft Teams introduction late last year, Facebook is planning to launch a new version of Workplace that’s free. If you’re not familiar, think a social networking app designed for workers to chat and collaborate.

Pricing for the current paid version breaks down like this: $3 per user for the first 1,000 active users, $2 per user for the next 9,000 active users, and then $1 for each additional active user.

The new app, which is still undergoing series of tests and is largely unavailable, will have the appearance of the paid version, but companies on this platform will not enjoy the same administrative and analytical tools as a paying subscribers. According to a recent CNBC story, Simon Cross, Facebook’s product manager, “We’re making Workplace work for more companies, so it’s a pretty big step for us.”

Workplace is just like regular Facebook, the difference being that the users get to interact with their colleagues, rather than connecting with their friends and family. This version will be referred to as “Workplace Standard,” while the paid one will be known as “Workplace Premium.”

According to spokesperson, Vanessa Chan via CNBC, Facebook has already signed up “thousands” of subscribers to Workplace premium, which was launched officially in October.

The free version looks to serve as a gateway drug for companies who get big enough to transfer to the paid version when the time comes to upgrade. A shot at the SMB market to build some brand loyalty.

Cross said, “Not every company wants to go through a full-scale enterprise deployment and not every company is in a position to pay for Workplace.” Cross also stated there was a demand for an easier means of signing up for Workplace, as well as a suitable version for smaller companies in several parts of the world, and across different verticals.

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Facebook is betting that small businesses and companies in up-and-coming markets, who are more cost sensitive, will be lured to the platform by a free version.

“We hope it helps grow the number of companies that we’re able to connect,” Cross said. “They can use it in their team, they can use it in their department, and maybe eventually go on to deploy Workplace Premium across the company, but with Workplace Standard they can get started for free.”

Facebook has to deal with plenty of rivals who all crave a piece of the workplace messenger pie. Underdog Slack boasts about 5 million active daily users and 1.5 million paying customers. Heavyweights include Microsoft, which introduced Teams in November 2016 and is looking to assimilate LinkedIn as part of the product. Then there’s this itty-bitty company called Google that recently unveiled Spaces.

This move by Facebook, combined with its recently launched job posting product, all support the argument that it’s getting very serious about the employment space. If you like heavyweight fights, grab your popcorn, and enjoy.

Joel Cheesman has over 20 years experience in the online recruitment space. He worked for both international and local job boards in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 2005, Cheesman founded HRSEO, a search engine marketing company for HR, as well as launching an award-winning industry blog called Cheezhead. He has been featured in Fast Company and US News and World Report. He sold his company in 2009 to Jobing.com. He was employed by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background check company. He is the founder of Ratedly, an app that monitors anonymous employee reviews. He is married and the father of three children. He lives in Indianapolis.

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