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7/3/2007
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Zoho's Facebook Integration Brings Office Apps To Social Networking ... Sort Of

Facebook members view and edit Zoho Writer documents, Zoho Sheet spreadsheets, and Zoho Show presentations via a widget that becomes part of their Facebook profile pages.

Zoho, a provider of online office applications, joined Facebook yesterday with an application that lets Facebook members view and edit Zoho Writer documents, Zoho Sheet spreadsheets, and Zoho Show presentations via a widget that becomes part of their Facebook profile pages. As the first office application on Facebook, it's a small step toward bringing traditional social networking sites credibility in the workplace. But it still needs work.

Facebook opened up its platform earlier this year, allowing third parties to install applications that appear on Facebook profiles. The most popular Facebook apps have millions of users. There's one for displaying a list of best friends, one for horoscopes, one for video sharing, Facebook for mobile devices, an anonymous message box, and another to draw on a Facebook friend's profile. Note the lack of apps that scream "this one helps get work done."

Zoho says it is targeting the release at students, which make up 30% of the company's user base and are a large part of Facebook's success. However, Zoho also recognizes the potential for professional use. "These students will develop into professionals, and will add new contacts and further take advantage of Zoho's additional office applications beyond, for example, a word document," said Zoho evangelist Raju Vegesna in an an e-mail.

Still, Zoho's integration with Facebook is at best limited today. First and foremost, those who want to use Zoho on Facebook still have to register with Zoho before they can do so. Their Facebook log-in won't do. Meanwhile, clicking on a link to a document takes the user away from Facebook to Zoho's site. Though Zoho opens in another tab, there's not even a link back to Facebook. Additionally, users can invite Facebook friends to download the Zoho app, but have to share Zoho documents with Facebook users via their e-mail address, rather than directly with them via a message.

These problems could keep users away for now, but deeper integration is in the works. "The integration of Zoho and Facebook is one in which we plan to invest and further develop," Vegensna said. There are all sorts of interesting possibilities here, including displaying documents directly on a Facebook profile page and sharing documents with Facebook friends via a message.

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