Google Apps is an impressive productivity suite. But however good Docs and Gmail are, organizations using Apps are left without the kinds of social software they’re used to having outside of work. Singapore-based startup Socialwok is attempting to fix that by offering a social app that lives on top of Google Apps. Socialwok resembles FriendFeed in many ways. The real-time stream of information can include attachments in-line and can be divided into topical feeds. The big difference is that all of it is nested securely under the umbrella of your Apps login.
Social Feeds for Organizations
The aim of Socialwok is a provide a communication and collaboration platform on top of Google Apps, one that draws in all kinds of information that needs to be shared quickly in an organization.
“In Socialwok the concept is all around feeds,” said Socialwok CEO Ming Yong in a demo video, “You can have feeds for a project, feeds for engineering, feeds for accounting, feeds for anything.” Socialwok feeds don’t refer to RSS feeds. They basically mean activity streams roughly equivalent to FriendFeed rooms.
Every user that logs into Socialwok with Apps (there is no other login method) gets a central feed. Other feeds can be created, such as for different teams in an enterprise, and those feeds can be made private so that you only have access to feeds you’re invited to. Organizations can also selectively invite those outside their Apps domain to relevant feeds.
In addition to simple short messaging like Twitter, Socialwok feeds are also suitable for sharing content from all the other areas of Google Apps, as well as media from outside Apps, including video. “Think of us like Facebook for groups, enterprise, and businesses, but we wrap around online productivity,” Ming said. In addition to intranet-style communication, Socialwok lets you publish messages to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Socialwok also supports replying to a feed through email and has good mobile access. There’s currently a BlackBerry app and a dedicated mobile site for iPhone and Android users. All the mobile versions focus more on the microblogging aspects than anything else.
What about Wave?
The first thing that comes to mind when looking at how Socialwok talks about the “missing social layer” of Apps is that Google Wave is going to provide that layer. Wave is a social platform that sits on top of Apps like Socialwok does, and it does a whole lot more besides, especially since Wave is more than just a lone application.
We asked Ming what he thought of the challenge Wave presents, and he showed us an experimental feature for including a Wave inside a Socialwok feed. The company doesn’t see Wave as a direct competitor.
The ability to create a private network, and topical feeds within an organization’s Socialwok strikes us as a key difference as well. Whether that and other differences will be enough to build a lasting business in the face of Google Wave is unclear.
Socialwok is built on the Google App Engine. It’s user interface is simple, but the core functionality makes perfect sense from the perspective of someone with an enterprise or education version of Google Apps. It’s currently free, though a paid version with advanced features is part of the company’s plan for the future.