CERN drops Facebook’s Slack competitor, citing privacy issues and low usage

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, on Friday ended its use of Workplace by Facebook, the company’s communications tool for companies.

The organization disclosed its decision to stop using the enterprise Facebook tool in a press release on Tuesday, citing a lack of usage by CERN members and concerns about data privacy.

“Many people preferred not to use a tool from a company that they did not trust in terms of data privacy,” CERN said in its release. “To date, about 1000 members of the CERN community have created a Workplace account and there are roughly 150 active users of the platform per week.”

Although it is normal for corporations and organizations to switch vendors, it is uncommon to make public announcements about them.

CERN began using Workplace when it was first launched in October 2016, when the tool was free to use. That changed after Facebook announced in October 2019 that Workplace had surpassed 3 million paid users. At that time, Facebook gave CERN a choice to start paying, or downgrade to a free version that would remove the organization’s administrative rights and — as CERN put it — “send all data to Facebook.”

“Losing control of our data was unacceptable, as was paying for a tool that was not part of our core offering for the CERN community,” CERN said. “Therefore, we will end the trial of this platform.”

Workplace by Facebook has amassed a number of notable clients, including Walmart, Starbucks and Spotify, but the enterprise software service trails its more well-known competitors. By comparison, Slack counts 6 million paid users as of October 2019 while Microsoft Teams, which is bundled with Office 365, claims 20 million daily active users as of November.

“Last October we announced an update to our pricing and packaging. As part of this we started renewal conversations with some of our customers and we’re sorry CERN are no longer trialing Workplace,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

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