Jive Software Wants to Be Facebook for the Enterprise

Jive Software today launched what it hopes will become a Facebook-style social networking platform for businesses, complete with an activity stream for internal communications, an open API and an open application store. The company also announced that it is licensing the Twitter “firehose” — an index of all 65 million tweets that are posted to the service daily — and will be offering Jive software through the Google Apps marketplace. Jive’s launch is the latest attempt to bring social networking to the enterprise, but this is a market that has so far balked at jumping on board the social bandwagon, and the odds of failure are high.

“Enterprise is the next big opportunity in social networking,” said Christopher Lochhead, the company’s chief strategy officer. “Until now, most of the innovation in that area has been coming on the consumer side. For the most part, the last 10 years or so has been the lost decade for the enterprise, and we want to change that.” According to Lochhead, Jive is “the largest and fastest-growing social business services company” with more than 3,000 customers and a total of over 15 million users of its software platform, which is now called Social Business Software (formerly Clearspace).

Lochhead and Jive Software co-founder Matt Tucker, who is also the company’s chief technology officer, said they want to bring the benefits of social networking — and open standards — to the corporate sector, while still giving companies the control they need to achieve the security and other criteria they require. Launching today at the Enterprise 2.0 conference is a single dashboard-style view of that pulls in whatever relevant information an employee needs to know, Tucker says, whether that comes from Twitter or email or a shared document on the intranet. The company calls this view “Jive What Matters.”

Tucker says the other big initiative is an application marketplace, which will allow developers to create small, lightweight apps that can integrate into Jive’s dashboard, in the same way Google apps can be embedded into a Google custom homepage. Apps could employ features that come from Jive, the co-founder says, but could also use functions from SAP’s software if a company uses that, or other systems that are common in corporate environments. And Jive is building in support for open standards such as OAuth and Google’s OpenSocial as well.

The rationale behind Jive’s new offering seems sounds — anyone who has seen a Facebook wall will recognize the “What Matters” view instantly, and if the company can manage to pull together the various streams of information from Twitter to email to internal document feeds, it might have a shot at actually making some companies more social and more efficient at the same time. But the odds are stacked against it.

Despite the explosion in popularity of social networking tools and services over the past few years, so far no one has really extended this kind of social revolution to the enterprise successfully. The big software companies and enterprise vendors have tried in a variety of ways — including Microsoft (s msft) with its SharePoint platform, which has wiki-style pages and built-in messaging, and Salesforce.com (s crm) with a Twitter-style service called Chatter — but so far social networking and the corporate environment seem to be a little like oil and water, never quite blending.

In part, that could be because of corporate standards governing firewalls and security and the need for robust software that can be licensed, installed and maintained by large IT departments — as opposed to the web world of beta software, open standards and an anything-goes kind of approach to social networks and information sharing. Whether Jive’s blend of open APIs, an open app marketplace and installed software can successfully bring these two worlds together remains to be seen.

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