Microsoft and Facebook Unveil Docs, but Why?

One of the features unveiled at Facebook’s f8 developers conference yesterday was Docs, a new product of Microsoft’s FUSE Labs. It’s a Facebook app and companion website that enables Facebook users to upload and create Office documents to share with their Facebook friends. New documents will show up in a user’s news feed, and can be commented on and “liked.”

While I’m still waiting for an invite code to try out Docs myself, it looks like it’s built on top of Office Web Apps, which itself is an impressive service — Office documents uploaded to the web apps look and feel almost exactly like they do in the desktop version of the software. However, I’m left puzzled by this specific integration; sharing and collaborating on Office documents is just not something that I envisage myself doing on Facebook, and I really can’t see my Facebook friends doing it, either.

Unlike links, status updates, photos, videos and events, documents are just not “social objects” that I’d like to share with my friends, comment on and “like.” Document sharing is something I might do via a private corporate social network, like SocialText, or perhaps even via a business-focused public network like LinkedIn, but Facebook is (for me, at least) a place to find out what my friends are up to. While Facebook might be the world’s biggest social network, it’s not necessarily appropriate for every use — something I discussed recently in a post for GigaOM Pro about social media marketing (subscription required), but the point also applies here.

I don’t want to be too critical, though, as Docs is currently only a beta of some experimental software (FUSE Labs’ Lili Cheng calls it “an exploration”). It’s entirely possible that if Microsoft was forward-thinking enough, it could offer similar integrations of Office Web Apps/Docs with project management and corporate social networking apps, which could make it a much more compelling offering, and might even tempt some users away from well-established cloud office suites like Google Docs and Zoho (for more on cloud computing, check out our Structure conference in June).

What do you think? Would you use Docs in Facebook?


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