Salesforce.com next month will begin shipping its Communities application, designed to let companies build external-facing social sites for interacting with their customers and partners.
Communities uses the technology in Salesforce.com's Chatter application, which is designed for building enterprise social networks for internal employee collaboration.
Pricing for Communities starts at $500 per month, per community site. Companies need to have a Salesforce.com license to use the application, but external participants don't need to be Salesforce.com customers to participate in the sites created with it.
Communities can be used to set up customer service hubs, marketing sites and partner support portals. The application is integrated with Salesforce.com's core CRM (customer relationship management) suite, so data from the community sites can be captured and funneled to CRM files.
Communities was announced in August of last year and went into a "limited pilot" release later, during which some customers got a head start creating sites. Those customers included the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, GE and Pernod Ricard.
With this product, Salesforce.com continues to beef up its enterprise collaboration portfolio and put itself in greater competition with enterprise social networking products from companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Jive Software, Socialtext and Tibco.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.