Chatter builds its social supercontinent with new real-time features

Salesforce, executive John Wookey told GigaOM earlier this year, is betting on social, envisioning a future where not just communication tools get a social rethink, but nearly every area of business.
“Over the next five years this will start sweeping through companies. In the same ways that Rypple has taken this model of social networking as a fundamental design point and applied it to performance management systems, I think you’re going to see it apply to a lot of systems, whether it’s recruiting, compensation or learning systems. I think it will eventually hit things like your financial budgeting and planning systems, your project systems, anything where the work is inherently social,” he said.
That’s a lot of social. But hopefully, in Saleforce’s vision of how things unfold, not a lot of different social tools. We spoke with to Dave King, director of product marketing for Chatter, about new real-time chat and screen sharing features for enterprise social network Chatter that the company is announcing today, and he explained that the overarching aim of the new additions to the product is to integrate “islands of communication” so that employees need not switch through multiple tools but can access this growing array of social processes through Chatter. Salesforce wants, in effect, to link these islands together and create a Pangaea of social with Chatter at its center.
Looking very much like a Gchat within Chatter, the new messaging tool lets workers message others, either singly or in groups of up to ten, within the organization (i.e. other Chatter users at the company) without having to switch windows or open another application. Your buddy list is automatically generated from all those you’re already connected to on Chatter. The in-browser screen sharing application is designed to replace the likes of WebEx for internal discussions. Both tools are freely available to all existing customers as of today, as well as those using the free version of the product.
This additional functionality is good news for current users, but it’s also interesting in what it indicates about where Salesforce sees social tools going. “Every business process has a combination of unstructured or social processes and structured processes,” King explains. “Let’s take recruiting. When I’m recruiting maybe I email a PDF of the resume around and I’m IMing people who interviewed the candidate to get their feedback, but all of those things are in different places.”
Chatter wants to be your portal into all those actions and to the increasing array of business areas that Wookey predicted are getting a social overhaul. “We think it all needs to be united. So let’s say your files are in SharePoint and maybe you have an HR system in a different place, Chatter, with our Chatter Connect API, can be the unifying social layer that really brings all those things together,” King says, who added that Salesforce is also hoping to enable collaboration with those external to Chatter through the platform in the future.
Rather than tools proliferating as more processes go social, Salesforce wants all of those additional functions to integrate with Chatter. That’s good for the company, of course, as their products become more tightly woven into ever more aspects of your business, but the message out of Salesforce is it’s also a matter of increased efficiency for the user.
Do you see an integrated platform model dominating the future of social, or are we more likely to see a profusion of “social islands” dominate the scene for a good while yet?
Image courtesy of Salesforce.