Borrowing a Page from Facebook and Ning, BroadVision Bets the Company on the “Social Business Cloud”

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business applications like “It’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with all that information,” says Rodriguez. “We in the enterprise software and social networking businesses have to some extent created this world, so it’s incumbent on us to fix it.”

BroadVision’s solution is a new Clearvale feature called MyStreams, which collects multiple data streams such as e-mail, voicemail, and social media updates on a single page customized for each user. But MyStreams doesn’t simply aggregate the information—it also filters it. “You can look at the data streams and dial them up and down depending on how much you want,” says Rodriguez.

Services like Gmail’s recently introduced Priority Inbox feature offer Web users similar control, but this technology hasn’t been available in a large corporate environment before, Rodriguez says. “It’s probably the first tool for enterprise social networks that allows businesses to integrate and filter the different data streams that exist for their workers.”

Of course, it can be tough to ask workers to learn yet another new interface—especially inside companies where e-mail is still king, and employees won’t necessarily be able to simply turn off existing tools like Microsoft’s Outlook. “It’s inevitable that when you have a new paradigm, you have to endure a period of transition,” Chen acknowledges. But BroadVision’s studies of Clearvale MyStreams beta users have shown that users adapt relatively quickly, he says, especially once they notice that their data streams are becoming less burdensome.

“We ask people whether they feel like they’ve been able to do more on Clearvale versus Outlook, and whether they think Clearvale could ever be their primary mode of communications and collaboration,” Chen says. “In the beginning, few people believe this will happen. But if you ask every two or three months, you see that ever so slowly people are moving up the ladder and believing that they don’t need to go into Outlook as much.”

Despite all of the similarities between Clearvale’s new tools and consumer Web services like Gmail and Facebook, there’s one thing missing—virality. Clearvale users can invite other people to join communities within the platform on a project-by-project basis, which will help with exposure and marketing. But it’s still the chief information officer who has to decide whether his or her company should adopt the platform.

That’s where the pay-per-use pricing model comes in. Clearvale customers only pay for users who actually sign in, and can increase or decrease the number of users on their plan as required. That should add to Clearvale’s attractions, Rodriguez says. “If you are a provider of cloud-based services, you should be required to provide pricing that better fits the realities of cloud economics,” he said in BroadVision’s product announcement today.

Chen, the 17-year veteran of the enterprise Web business, says he’s convinced that the bet the company made on more social and cloud-based platforms three years ago will start to pay off. “You don’t get to see the beginning of a brand-new paradigm that often,” he says. “In the thick of the Internet bubble, everybody was drunk and nobody knew where the future was going. Now all of us feel like it’s very clear.”

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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