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 (s msft). 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 (s goog) and Zoho (for more on cloud computing, check out our Structure conference in June).

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


Shawn Berg

The only use I see for this is school projects. Even then, most students probably don’t want that in their news feed. Especially if other students who are working on similar projects can see it. Maybe the privacy controls will handle this. I guess we’ll wait and see.

Mighty Guru

I’m not sure if the author “gets it”. Maybe he doesn’t have kids. If there are no uses for Office outside of work, why so many people have it on their home computers?

My high school son does a lot of school projects where he researches the problem with his friends and summarizes results in a PPT presentation. They already collaborate using Facebook. For them, DOCS.COM is a blessing.
My wife volunteers at the same school to organize meetings. They send around BY EMAIL a signup sheet who brings what formatted as an Excel spreadsheet. Merging all email responses is a hassle. Online spreadsheet is the solution.
And if I want to share a cooking recipe for that Christmas cake, what is a better way than a simple Word document, that allows me to put together a description and a picture.

These are all valid examples how DOCS.COM can be used to enhance social interactions within the context of Facebook. Yes, people share pictures more often than cooking recipes, but at the end they do both.
As for work, well, Facebook indeed may not be the best place. Office 2010 didn’t launch yet, but we know from the beta that it will offer a similar integration of Web Apps with the corporate SharePoint servers.


They want your information. Stupid monkey people will fall for it.


It sounds like they’re moving into Google territory. They already announced their own full email service, and this looks like continued momentum in that direction (like you said above re: Google Docs).

Brandon Setter

Interesting idea no doubt, but I really can’t see talking the people in my office into using Facebook for “work”.

Facebook has been a place to have fun and share for so long that doing the office-ish tasks that are usually associated with job responsibilities are unlikely going to end up on Facebook.

That could be changed if Facebook someday offers an email service and project management, calendar, etc… You could do all of your client interaction, staff events, collaboration etc. through Facebook – I could see that. I actually think it would be easier than email. I mean I’m already Friends with most, if not all of my clients. I could always make a company Facebook acct. if I wanted “work” separate from my personal life.

All seems plausible… I could see “work” getting done on FB if the conditions are right.

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