Time to continue our “VS.” series! This time, let’s do a comparison of Workplace by Facebook to Skype for Business.
(Previous post: Skype for Business vs. Google Hangouts)
I was introduced to Workplace during research for The Security Behind 6 Business Chat Apps (Including Skype for Business). Here’s an excerpt from that post, talking about Workplace:
The Workplace app does almost exactly the same things as Microsoft Teams and Slack: chat rooms, groups, external users, video, etc. It’s just made by the Facebook team. Pricing is cheaper than Slack, which makes sense if Workplace wants to grab users from other platforms.
Some good (and bad) points:
- Workplace accounts are different from Facebook accounts. That’s good; separating work and play means better privacy overall.
- Workplace has a Trust Center posted, like Office 365: Workplace Trust Principles. Good for you guys!
- Workplace debuts with a handicap though—Facebook’s dubious privacy practices. It’s a separate system, but Workplace does run off Facebook’s servers. Some businesses will shy away on reputation alone (and I can’t honestly blame them).
I requested a trial. Curiously, I was prompted to select a time for a Live Demo, instead of a download link or registration page. Which gave me a nice overview of the platform before sending me a link to my new Workplace. After playing with it for a few days (and bugging my co-workers with random “Just testing!” calls), I think it’s time for my review.
So what kind of experience does Workplace give us? Is a “Facebook for Work” app what we need? What kind of pricing are we getting? Features? Let’s find out!
The Basics: Feature Sets
|Skype for Business||Workplace By FB|
|Instant Messaging||Work Chat (Messenger on Steroids)|
|Voice Calls||Voice Calls within Work Chat|
|Video Calls||Video Calls within Work Chat|
|Presence Status||Presence Indicator|
|Persistent Chat||Work Chat|
|Runs On-Prem (Server)
or SaaS Option (Office 365)
|Runs as Cloud Service
with Mobile Apps
Before we get into the details on similarities & differences though, there’s an elephant in the (chat) room. Privacy.
The Privacy Question
Workplace does come from Facebook. And Facebook is famous for its, shall we say, cavalier attitude about user privacy.
The question is, does Workplace protect users’ privacy? As a business product, it does have a legal obligation. So far, I’ve seen no indication that it will gamble with user privacy. But given its creator, we must still wonder.
In the Workplace FAQs, we find several questions devoted to privacy and confidentiality. Like this one.
Who owns the information that employees create?
Like other cloud-based enterprise software, the employer does.
Pretty straightforward answer. Only time will tell what changes may appear in Workplace’s approach to privacy. As well as what the market believes about Workplace privacy.
The Similarities: Features, Familiar UI
In terms of features, both platforms are very similar. Workplace’s Work Chat mirrors Skype4B’s Instant Messaging. From there, you can add voice, video, or other people with a few clicks. Just like in Skype for Business.
I was able to test the calling function, but not video (think my cam’s broken). Calls in Workplace came through as clear as any Skype for Business call.
Familiarity is a big factor in both platforms. Workplace feels & acts almost identically to Facebook. Skype for Business feels & acts a lot like Skype (in some respects!). I must credit both Facebook and Microsoft on this. Familiarity is a big part of good user experience—it helps adoption, shortens the learning curve, and improves overall satisfaction.
As you can see from the screenshot, Workplace’s interface is feed-based. Skype for Business’ interface is contact-based. So long as the user knows where to go for communications, the interface works. In this respect, Workplace has a leg up over other chat competitors, like Slack and HipChat.
The Differences: Pricing, On-Prem vs. Cloud, Apps
The biggest difference I see (at least right now) is that Workplace is cloud-only. No local deployment option exists. Not surprising, but for those who prefer deploying servers on-prem…Workplace is a no-go.
The pricing difference stems from this same disparity.
Workplace charges only by active users. Skype for Business Online does something similar through Office 365 user accounts. But Skype for Business Server does not. The server pricing is up-front, in the form of licenses and implementation costs.
Workplace just turns on and charges you for X users each month.
Their price point is lower than Microsoft’s Office 365. In fact, even considering Slack’s pricing, Workplace is the cheapest per month:
- Office 365 Business plans run from $5/user/month to $12.50/user/month. The Enterprise plans run from $8/user/month to $35/user/month.
- Slack charges $8/user/month for Standard, and $15/user/month for Plus.
- Workplace starts at $3/user/month for the first 1,000 users ($2/user for the next 1,000, and $1/user after that).
Seems pretty obvious that Facebook wants to compete on price as well as features. Using such a low per-user pricing model is an attempt to leapfrog both Slack and Microsoft. Like its other platforms, the company may aim to grow Workplace at break-even (or even at a small loss) until it reaches juggernaut status. Then they can raise prices all they want.
It’s worked for them before; I must admit that. But only time will tell us if this pays off for Workplace’s adoption.
Finally, Workplace features third-party app integration. Facebook learned from its ecosystem of consumer apps & games, and built an API that will let developers build add-ons for Workplace too.
You can do this with Skype for Business as well, to some degree. There are many third-party apps which extend the Skype for Business system. (We’ve reviewed a few here on the blog – search around!)
Microsoft even maintains a registry: Skype for Business Apps, though it is incomplete. In terms of third-party integration, Workplace has a bit of an edge here. Like Slack, it appears designed to work with other apps from the start.
Final Words: Workplace Has the Chops, But Will Businesses Bite?
Facebook is moving into an already-populated space, where competitors have had years to build up their audiences, and trying to take it over. Nothing inherently wrong with such a practice—disruption feeds innovation.
But I can’t help thinking Workplace will never get out from under Facebook’s privacy question. If there’s a data leak, or Workplace data “accidentally” shows up in Facebook ad deployments? Then Workplace is DOA…and thousands of businesses are in serious trouble.
A final note: Workplace is still the new kid on the block. I will revisit this topic again later, after the market’s had time to chew through Workplace more, and we see what kind of management path Facebook takes with it.
Which do you prefer using—Workplace by FB or Skype for Business? Are there situations where you prefer one over the other? Please comment or email me what you think.