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Salesforce.com Follows Twitter Trend With Chatter

Salesforce Chatter preview promises to make social networking features available for developers to build enterprise social apps

The on-demand software company Salesforce.com has today launched a developer preview of Salesforce Chatter, a new collaboration application platform it said would aid in the development of more social, sticky, and relevant applications.

The new cloud-based platform is designed to enable developers to add social features like profiles, status updates, and real-time feeds to any of the applications built on its Force.com cloud computing platform, jumping on the consumer social-networking trail blazed by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

“Developers have been asking, ‘Why can’t we build enterprise apps that are more like Facebook?'” said Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive of Salesforce.com. “With Chatter, they can.

Chatter preview offered to 5,000 developers

The Salesforce and customer relationship management (CRM) software maker said it would follow earlier beta testing by offering a preview of the Chatter-enabled development environment to 5,000 selected developers, for them to start experimenting with building social apps more quickly, using a set of pre-built components.

While the cost and complexity of writing code, feeds, profiles, notification logic, and negotiating layers of permissions and security may have put some developers off, Chatter aims to eventually offer its Force.com customers application programming interfaces (APIs), so developers can create new social enterprise business apps using data from other applications, including on-premise ones.

This means that, once Chatter is generally available later this year, some 150,000 custom apps built on Force.com, as well as any new ones, will be able to introduce real-time social capabilities, like profiles, as well as application and status updates, to gain an edge on Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus.

Other features include Chatter Feeds, for real-time systems monitoring feeds, while custom apps built natively on Force.com will be able to add the group functionality to share updates, files and feeds from directly within the applications themselves for increased content-sharing and collaboration.

Toolkit enables faster, cheaper development

Facebook and Twitter developer toolkits aim to extend the speed of development by pulling in other existing data, while Salesforce claimed the secure, trusted sharing model of the Force.com platform could enable building enterprise social apps five times faster and at half the cost of traditional software platforms, including Microsoft’s .NET.

“Companies are eager to innovate and create business apps that harness the power of today’s real-time social features,” commented Denis Pombriant, founder and principal analyst, Beagle Research. “With the capabilities of the Chatter application and Force.com platform, companies, for the first time, can quickly and easily create social apps for the enterprise.”

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider is also unveiling a new community for its social-networking environment, called Chatter DevZone, where developers can collaborate and use apps built by peers. While Salesforce.com Developer Edition is free of charge, the current schedule for Chatter is hoped to boost the US software firm’s recession-bucking growth when Chatter is included in all paid editions of Salesforce CRM and Force.com.