Workplace, Facebook's enterprise social networking and communications software, is off to a hot start, growing from 1,000 companies using it in October to now being used by more than 14,000 organizations worldwide just six months later.

Facebook announced the impressive growth at F8, the company's annual developer conference, along with a suite of new features that promise to make the enterprise software more secure, automated and effective for productivity.

Among the most notable new features is an application programming interface, or API, that will allow companies to use professional equipment to livestream meetings to employees across all of their offices.

"It's going to be for team meetings," Simon Cross, product manager of Workplace, told Inc. "And it's going to be great for seminars, webinars, training and that kind of thing."

Facebook launched Workplace in October as a way to burst into the enterprise market and compete with popular business communication software like Hipchat, Yammer and, most notably, Slack. At the time of the launch, Facebook told Inc. that Workplace was a big bet for the company, on par in importance with other efforts like Instagram and Oculus. This rapid adoption would appear to be a validation of Facebook's efforts.

Workplace has remained free for now, but Facebook will begin to charge companies for the premium version of Workplace at the end of September. That could potentially hamper growth, but Facebook is bracing for that by planning to release a free "Standard" version of the software that will small teams and new clients to test the technology before committing to any payments.

On the other hand, Workplace has an unusually large addressable market in the form of the vast audience of Facebook users. "As you can imagine, 1.8 billion people have already been trained to use this tool," said Workplace Vice President Julien Codorniou, alluding to Facebook's active monthly user count.

Besides the new live-streaming API, Facebook said Workplace will now work with Microsoft, Salesforce, Quip and Box, allowing users to access their files from those productivity suites. For companies dealing with sensitive information, Workplace is also integrating with security and compliance service providers.

Finally, Facebook has also made it possible for companies to create messaging bots that can be used to automate services their employees may need to use, such as filing a ticket with the company's helpdesk. This will be done with new partnerships with bot-service providers.

"The integrations we're announcing," Cross said, "will help everyone be more productive."

Published on: Apr 18, 2017