Facebook’s new products focus mainly on video conferencing and drop-in tools to accommodate the spike in users working from home.
The changes come as Facebook moves more of its own staff to remote work and recognizes the trend is growing with other connected workplaces. Also announced: increased availability of Oculus for Business, hinting at how VR tools will become more integral to enterprise
As remote work becomes the new normal for millions of office workers worldwide, Facebook has revealed that Workplace, its video and chat platform for businesses, has hit five million paying users, as the company plans to bolster the platform’s capabilities to accommodate more individuals who are working from home. Workplace, which Facebook launched in October 2016, also announced more tools to make video conversations more interactive and flexible. These include Work Groups, which allows co-workers to create small pods for discussion and collaboration.
Additionally, Oculus for Business, Facebook’s Virtual Reality tool, was made widely available.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, speaking in a video that was aimed at company staff, said that these changes—which the company is also rolling out internally as more of its own staff pivot to remote work—are all about “a feeling of presence.”
“As we use these tools for work as well and eat our own dog food, we’ll advance the technology,” he added.
Workplace’s spike in users to five million has been quick: the platform had three million users as recently as October. “Covid changed and accelerated everything for us,” Workplace VP Julien Codorniou told CNBC in an interview about changes to the platform. “What was supposed to happen in five years just happened in two months.”
Workplace is a cornerstone in Facebook’s recent efforts to diversify its revenue sources. But compared to competitors, Workplace’s growth—it, along with Oculus and Portal, which are Facebook’s video-calling devices, account for 2% of the company’s overall revenue—has been slow: Microsoft Teams has 75 million daily active users, up from 44 million in mid-March; Zoom, the video-conferencing software whose use has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, had 300 million active daily users in April, up from just 10 million in December.
Facebook has been working to improve the flexibility of Workspace since the COVID-19 pandemic made apparent the increased importance of remote work. In April, it revealed Messenger Rooms, which allows users to create video chats directly from Messenger, and invite up to 50 people onto the call.