Microsoft's FUSE Labs has released a new social experiment that is designed to enable users to discover, create and share Microsoft Office documents with their friends on Facebook. Called Docs, the online beta service is based on the Web Apps technology already built into Microsoft Office 2010.
"This product was designed to be social," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the company's f8 developer conference in San Francisco. "It is built from the ground up with the assumption that every user would have their real identity and friends."
Office for Everyone
The seamless integration of Microsoft Office 2010 with Facebook enables users to decide with whom they want to share their documents at each stage of the process -- from privately creating and editing to collaborating on docs and sharing the final result publicly on the web. "You can . . . have someone help you edit it, incorporate feedback, and then share it with the world," noted Pat Kinsel, a program manager at FUSE Labs.
Moreover, users are not limited to creating and editing their document files exclusively in an online environment. "Documents can be viewed and edited directly within a web browser -- or, with a single click, you can edit them more richly and powerfully through the Microsoft Office software on your PC or Mac," said Lili Cheng, general manager of FUSE Labs.
The advantage of sharing and collaborating in the Docs.com online environment is that this makes it possible for everyone to create and collaborate on Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents -- including those who do not have Microsoft Office running on their computers, Cheng noted.
"If you don't have Office, you can use the web app to create [documents] online," Cheng said. "We really believe that people don't have these lines between work and play, so why not use Office more easily to communicate with the people you care about the most?"
Once users have saved their documents to Docs.com, they can begin sharing their creations on their Facebook pages by granting viewing and editing rights to their friends. Each document "immediately posts into Facebook just like a photo or video does today," Kinsel explained.
Users also will be able to add a tab to their profile pages that will let friends see any documents that they have shared -- either just with them or with everyone. "On Facebook, you can discuss a doc just as you would a status update or photo -- so there's really nothing new to learn here," said Kinsel.
According to Zukerberg, the Docs user interface will eventually be hosted right inside Facebook. Right now, however, the full-featured version of the beta service hosted at Microsoft's Docs.com site is available currently to only a limited number of Facebook users. Those who sign up on the Docs waiting list will receive a notification when all these features become available to them, Kinsel noted.
Microsoft's online offering would not have been possible if it were not for a technical assist from Facebook. "We'd never have been able to achieve our critical 'simplicity' goals had it not been for our ability to use a new test feature from Facebook that allows us to build an instantly personalized and seamless document authorization and sharing experience directly from our site," Cheng noted.