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Whatever Happened to Facebook's Slack Competitor Facebook at Work?

It's still alive, just moving slower than expected.

Kurt Wagner / Re/code

Do you remember Facebook at Work? The version of Facebook specifically built for your office? The one that would send Slack and Yammer and email running for the hills?

We almost forgot, too. But hidden among the Internet-beaming drones and 360-degree video cameras Facebook showed off this week at its annual developer conference in San Francisco was a Facebook at Work booth, a small, unheralded reminder that the future of workplace communications is also on Facebook’s radar. Add it to the list.

When we last spoke to Facebook about Work, the company was gearing up to launch a freemium version of the software to the masses before the end of 2015. It’s now mid-April 2016, and Facebook at Work is still in a closed beta.

So what happened? Is Facebook at Work still part of the game plan?

“We are working on building a great experience by incorporating the feedback we’re receiving from our pilot partners around the world,” a spokesperson told us, adding that the internal Facebook at Work team is growing and adding international support. “The product will be more widely available later this year.”

So things are still moving. Just slowly. And that matters because Facebook’s top competition, tech startup Slack, is growing quickly in the interim.

Facebook said it has 450 companies using the pilot, up from 100 in August, including some big companies like the Royal Bank of Scotland, which has more than 100,000 employees. More importantly, though, Facebook says it has 60,000 businesses that have signed up for its waiting list. That’s a lot of interested customers, but it’s unclear how many of them would actually pay for Work or use the free model.

Slack, for comparison, has more than two million users and more than 675,000 users who pay (or have employers who pay for them). That’s more than 100,000 new paid users since December, the same time we thought Facebook would be out on the open market.

Facebook has a tendency to turn small numbers into big numbers very quickly, so it’s not as though a few months’ delay means Facebook at Work can’t ultimately be a hit. But at a conference dedicated to Facebook’s future, Facebook at Work was a side note. And side notes can be hard to remember.

 The Facebook at Work booth at F8
The Facebook at Work booth at F8
Kurt Wagner / Re/code

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