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BroadVision Launches Social Network for Businesses

By David Needle
May 25, 2010

Does the world need another social network? BroadVision thinks so, particularly when it comes to businesses wary of consumer sites like Facebook that have had privacy and security issues.

On Tuesday, BroadVision (NASDAQ: BVSN) formally launched Clearvale, a social networking site geared toward enterprises. BroadVision said Clearvale's been under development for the past two years and several companies, including Aeroxchange, Softbank Telecom and Synaptics (NASDAQ: SYNA), have been actively using a beta version that's been available for about ten months. Softbank is also a channel partner of BroadVision and plans to offer a white label version of Clearvale.

BroadVision said Clearvale has been engineered to be simple to use and set up for creating in-house and public facing Web sites.

"Clearvale is what Ning could've been if it had focused on the enterprise," Giovanni Rodriguez, BroadVision's chief marketing officer, told InternetNews.com. Ning, co-founded by Internet pioneer Marc Andreessen, lets consumers and businesses set up their own branded social network.

Clearvale includes the most popular features of social networks, including collaboration tools, user profiles, member directories, blogs, wikis and forums. Of particular appeal to enterprise users are the system's "Docuvault" document management and file storage system that includes versioning, file history tracking, categorization, and user-level access controls.

Another feature, TeamWork, is an integrated project tracking tool designed to let team members create, assign, and monitor goals.

"Organizations around the world are interested in accelerating business through the power of social networks -- there is little doubt about that. But they want to do it in a way that is easy, scalable, and makes enterprise sense," Dr. Pehong Chen, founder and CEO of BroadVision, said in a statement. "Over the past year, our vision for the enterprise 2.0 market has been tested, vetted and refined by both our ‘legacy’ customers and prospects. Most importantly, they want to do it in an environment that’s open and navigable, so that they can discover and engage other companies on the social Web."

Clearvale uses a 'freemium' model that lets companies set up a social network for free for up to 50 users. Beyond 50 there are per-seat licensing charges. "We figure a company with a thousand employees fully using Clearvale would pay about $50,000 annually," said Rodriguez, a figure he claimed was significantly less than the $250,000 some competitors charge.

Analyst Jeremiah Owyang, who also has a business relationship with BroadVision, said Clearvale is one of several competing efforts designed to bring social networking to the enterprise and aggregate content from other social networks in an effective way.

"Pretty soon all your colleagues will be sending tweets from the airport and communicating on these networks," Owyang, analyst with Altimeter Group, told InternetNew.com. "We see a bunch of these tools coming out to aggregate these social signals and provide an intelligence to sort them all out so it's not just a firehouse of information."

Here come the Social Inbox Aggregators

Owyang has coined the term Social Inbox Aggregator (SIA) to describe companies that distribute and filter social media content. In his blog, written before Clearvale's announcement, Owyang lists Chatter by Salesforce, Gist, Socialcast and Yammer among enterprise SIA providers.

Rodriguez said by this fall BroadVision plans to launch the first app store for an enterprise social network that will let businesses build new services using Clearvale's API (DEFINE:API). One of the first apps will be a series of templates for creating social networks.

"It can be hard for businesses to get started and figure out 'Okay, what should an HR site look like?' We think a few template communities to get people started would be really useful," he said.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.