Arik Hesseldahl

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Exclusive: Yammer Now Works With

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The workplace is getting social. Enterprise software companies are taking a page or three from the likes of Facebook and Twitter to create social streams that keep people informed about what’s going on within a company.

One of the social enterprise companies getting a fair amount of buzz is Yammer. Initially known as a “Twitter for work,” it’s now transforming itself into something of a catchall for updates generated by numerous workplace applications.

Today, Yammer will announce that it will work with another application, and it’s a big one: The folks at Yammer used — Salesforce’s development platform — and Yammer’s own API to grab activity stream data from within Salesforce. Sales leads, deals, marketing campaigns and all sorts of other activity that gets entered into become objects that can appear directly within a Yammer stream, which is essentially as easy to keep track of and interact with as a Facebook stream.

In fact, a Facebook stream is exactly what Yammer CEO David Sacks compares it to. “A few months ago we released an activity stream API that lets any application push activity stories into Yammer, the same way that Zynga can push items like the latest Mafia Wars score into your Facebook stream,” he says.

Yammer did the integration with help from Appirio, a cloud apps developer that gets tapped to do a lot of third-party integration work.

But doesn’t Salesforce already have its own social software? Why, yes it does. Its service launched to much fanfare with a pair of expensive TV ads that aired during the Super Bowl, which in turn kicked off a bit of a skirmish within Google search results that Yammer took part in.

It’s not as if Yammer were partnering with Salesforce here. Sacks says that Yammer just, well, did it. “The nice thing about the open API world that we live in is that you don’t necessarily have to seek permission to use these APIs.”

The wider point of Yammer, Sacks says, is to pull social data not just from one application, but from many. Not everyone in a company is going to be using in the first place. The sales department might, and senior management might, but it’s of little use to, say, the human resources department or the accounting department. So Yammer talks to other applications, too. Case in point: Netsuite. Yammer announced an integration with that cloud-based business management suite of applications in May. It also works with Microsoft’s SharePoint and Active Directory.

And there will be more, Sacks says. “We’re seeing a trend with all these various line-of-business applications to build their own social networks into what they do,” he says. “And we’re already seeing customers and potential customers complaining about this, because they wind up with a dozen different social networks in their company and that defeats the whole purpose.” Yammer, he says, will be the middleman application that brings all those social streams into one place for everyone in a company. The comparison to Facebook is no accident: Yammer’s technology is based on Facebook’s Open Graph protocol.

So what happened to Chatter? Well, ask Salesforce and you’ll see some impressive stats and customer wins. Salesforce says that Chatter is used by 100,000 companies, among them Dell, Qualcomm and Lenovo.

But Yammer’s got 100,000 customers of its own, boasts three million corporate end users, and is adding them at a rate of about 200,000 a month. And there are some pretty impressive names among them, including chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices, LG Electronics, eBay and Thomson Reuters. And it got those without having to spend tens of millions on Super Bowl ads. A half-million of those customers are using the paid version of Yammer.

It’s a fast-moving business and there are numerous players. Another big one to watch is Jive Software, which was said last week to have hired bankers for a pending IPO, and which is being valued at $1 billion.

No wonder Yammer has done so well in raising funding. It has brought in a combined $40 million, which was topped off last November by a $25 million round led by US Venture Partners, with Emergence Capital, Charles River Ventures and the Founders Fund also participating. Ron Conway’s SV Angel was an early investor as well.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald