Microsoft testing prototype of Facebook-like social network

At the request of its SharePoint and Office product development teams, Microsoft 's Office Labs operation has created and is testing a prototype of an internal social network that can provide employees with feeds and updates about their colleagues. Chris Pratley, general manager of Office Labs , is slated to disclose details of the prototype -- called TownSquare -- Thursday at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. He spoke to Computerworld about the project, which was launched in January and has already been used by about 8,000 Microsoft employees.

With a layout that is strikingly similar to's (in which Microsoft invested $240 million in October 2007), TownSquare is fueled by enterprise news feeds that use Web services to query SharePoint for public information, such as promotions and company anniversaries, about an employee. TownSquare also notifies users when a document or file is modified. Users can customize their feeds and monitor who is receiving information about them.

In early January, Pratley's group told 100 Microsoft employees about the network. Since then, 8,000 employees who learned of TownSquare by word of mouth have visited the network at least once, Pratley noted. About 700 use it daily. Some Microsoft customers, which he declined to name, are testing the TownSquare network for use in their companies.

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