Facebook’s team collaboration software, Workplace, is getting a free version anyone can sign up for. The company is calling the tier its standard version, and it’s currently testing it with a select group of users with a plan to roll it out later this year for any group that’s eager to sign up. The freemium move emulates popular chat app Slack’s multi-tier model. Facebook’s aim is to get as many users trying its own workplace communication app as possible in the hopes it spreads to larger organizations and becomes a viable competitor to both Slack and Microsoft’s new Teams software, which it gives away for free to users of Office 365.
Workplace has two big advantages here. The first is obvious: nearly 2 billion people are on Facebook, giving it an existing and accessible group of users to target. The second is tactical. Facebook is currently giving away Workplace’s more costly, enterprise version for free until September 30th. When it does start charging, it will do so at rates far below Slack’s. The plan is to charge organizations only $3 a user for the first 1,000 members, and then $2 a user for the next 9,000 members added, and then $1 a user from then on out. Slack, on the other hand, charges between $6.50 to $12.50 a month for things like added storage and search.
Not only that, but Facebook plans on charging only for administrative controls, IT tools, and integrations with G Suite, Azure, and other services. If you’re a company that doesn’t rely on all that, you could reasonably use Facebook Workplace for free indefinitely. (Slack’s free version caps data storage at 5GB for the group, but it does allow integrations.) Still, Facebook would like to sweeten the deal for those who do pay for its premium tier. At its F8 developer conference today in San Jose, the company announced a suite of new integrations with services across the board, including a number of bot-making platforms, Dropbox, and sales management software from Microsoft, Salesforce, and Box.
So it’s safe to say that Slack is facing stiff competition from the most powerful tech industry software makers. The question now, however, is whether a company like Facebook can convince both small groups of users and large organizations that its product can be more than your standard social network. Given that the company’s reputation is for providing software employees try to hide from their employers, beating Slack may come second to rewriting Facebook’s image in the workplace.