Following its own tested and highly successful formula in CRM and other online software, Salesforce this week is rolling out ChatterExchange, a new marketplace for third-party developers to build, share and sell applications for the on-demand software provider's Chatter collaboration platform.
Chatter, which launched in private beta in February to about 100 customers, is described by CEO Marc Benioff as the Facebook of on-demand collaboration applications. The goal, as Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) sees it is, is to provide enterprise customers with a reliable, interactive alternative to Microsoft's SharePoint and IBM's Lotus Notes.
But to make it happen, Salesforce knows it needs a deep and meaningful pool of industry- and function-specific applications that address real business needs rather than just a novelty app that ends up being more of a time-wasting distraction than a tool for efficiency.
To that end, Salesforce is rolling out ChatterExchange, which is really just an extension of its very successful AppExchange platform. Salesforce customers have deployed more than 240,000 applications from AppExchange since its launch in 2005, generated more than $800 million in venture capital funding for its partners and has been blatantly copied by the likes of eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).
ChatterExchange already offers more than 12 partner applications from developers including CA, Appirio, DocuSign, EchoSign, FinancialForce.com, Fairsail and Genius.com. It now also features 15 different Force.com Labs' applications including ChatterViz, Chatter Case Triage, Chatter Mass Follower, Chatter + Google Alerts and others.
"We are in the era of Cloud 2, where social networking use has surpassed e-mail, Facebook and YouTube use have outpaced search, and new mobile devices like the iPad are creating entirely new ways to interact with information," Benioff said in a statement.
"With today's announcement, salesforce.com is advancing the shift to Cloud 2, where productivity gains are going to come from real-time collaboration available on any device," he added. "We've seen the future of enterprise software, and it looks more like Facebook on the iPad than Yahoo on the PC."
Salesforce says more than 500 clients are now using Chatter and it's in the process of adding another 400 to the private beta group.
Benioff apparently wants to be the first to popularize the term "Cloud 2," essentially the "socialization" of cloud computing applications, and said the company will lead the charge by offering the first on-demand applications that provides profiles, real-time feeds and status updates for not only people, but apps and data.
Salesforce's Chatter and the ChatterExchange are tightly integrated with its core Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and custom Force.com applications, giving customers the ability to track status updates, meetings and employees through any application available on the AppExchange platform. For developers working on the Force.com platform, all their cloud applications will now be able to access Chatter profiles, streams and APIs.
Assuming all goes well with the extended private beta, Salesforce plans to make Chatter available for free to all its customers sometime later this year.