Yammer is Not Just Facebook for Enterprises: A Deep Dive with CEO David Sacks

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have profiles and activity feeds. We don’t think it makes sense to build a separate social network into every one of those tools. That was the old recipe. Having dozens of social networks within your company would defeat the point. We have created an activity stream API [application programming interface] where all of these sites can publish their activity to our site—sort of the way Zynga publishes your FarmVille scores to your Facebook wall. Box has activity stories in its own app, but they should also syndicate that to Yammer. So Yammer becomes the superset of all your activity streams. Our activity stream API is open and based on the OpenGraph standard that Facebook created; we have extended that for the enterprise, and we think the whole industry should move toward this.

X: Why should the whole industry move toward Yammer’s API, rather than some competitor’s?

DS: We were the first to launch. We have the most users and companies using the platform, by far. We’ve had more time to interact with the marketplace, and I think we understand what the market wants. We feel like we’re the leader in the space. Also, we have this freemium model, where any employee can sign up and start using it and invite their coworkers, whereas with a lot of our enterprise competitors, you have to buy the product to start using it.

I also think we have learned how to distribute millions of messages in real time across many different platforms—this is the same scaling challenge that Twitter has. The way that translates is that Yammer just feels better to use than our competitors. They’ve got their feeds too, but they can be a little clunky or slow. I don’t even think any of our competitors are sufficiently used to push them to make their products more scalable, but we have over 3 million verified corporate users.

X: When I talk to my colleagues at Xconomy about adopting a tool like Yammer, the feeling is often that we already have e-mail and Twitter and RSS, and that Yammer would be just one more stream we’d have to keep up with all day. Do you think Yammer replaces any of these other tools, or is it possible that it just adds to the information overload?

DS: I think it displaces rather than replaces other tools. We’ve had customers report to us that their e-mail load goes down by about a third when they start using Yammer. We get a lot of conversations out of your inbox and into a much better place for having many-to-many conversations.

As an example, last week I met with SuperValu. It’s a Fortune 100 company with 5,000 grocery stories across the country. The CEO was very interested in Yammer, and originally thought that he would use it to talk to his executive team. It turned out that e-mail was good enough for that. But then what happened was the store managers from the 5,000 stories got on the tool and started exchanging ideas with each other. Three hundred of the stores are in college towns, and they started talking about what they should stock for back-to-school time. Now the COO has visibility into what’s happening in the stores on a daily basis. There is enormous business value on all levels from that. But none of these things is necessarily replacing an older way of doing things.

X: Right—so your Yammer feed is one more thing that you have to keep track of, which, from one point of view, could make your job harder.

DS: I don’t think it makes it harder to do your job. It makes it easier, because you are more connected to the information in your company. You have a better idea of … Next Page »

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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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