IBM announced the opening of its Center for Social Software Wednesday, in a move Big Blue hopes will bring more of its Web 2.0 offerings to the enterprise and allow the vendor to solicit and exchange ideas with members of the business, technology and academic communities.
IBM has made some inroads during the last couple years, bringing Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis and social networks to organizations for internal collaboration or to interact with customers. Features in IBM's Lotus Connections include blogs and social networks, and it has been deemed the vendor's fastest growing software product.
"IBM has centered our own infrastructure around a bigger investment in social software," Irene Greif, IBM's director of the Center for Social Software, told CIO. "We want to work more systematically and take this research and deliver it to customers."
According to Greif, the center, which will be located in the US, will work with governments, colleges and maybe even other vendors to figure out the best way for organizations to utilize social software and set the proper policies around its adoption. She also says she hopes people who interact with the center will give candid feedback about Big Blue's social software, as IBM employees do internally.
"Internally, our community of users who have adopted much of our social software," she says. "They have accepted some features and frankly rejected others. We'd like to have people from outside working with us too and have them invent with us."
Some of the center's initial projects derive from IBM labs. One of them is Beehive, an enterprise social network that IBM showed off during its Lotusphere conference in January. Another is Many Eyes, a free Web-based application that allows users to visualize data in Web 2.0 formats, such as tag clouds.
While IBM customers and IBM software will mostly be the focus of the center, Greif says that the company might work with other vendors to help provide standards around social software development.
"We want to work on establishing standards," she says. "I am expecting to see us step in and take some leadership in that area."