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Facebook rumored to be building a 'work' version of the site

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Facebook and workplace productivity have never really gone hand-in-hand. It's even been estimated that the time U.S. employees spend poking around on the social network is responsible for $28 billion in lost productivity.

But now there are rumors that Facebook possibly wants to change this dynamic by creating a new platform that would let companies utilize Facebook for work.

According to TechCrunch, an anonymous source at Facebook says the company is working on a product referred to as FB@Work, which could be Facebook's attempt to take on business-centric social networks like LinkedIn and Yammer.

“We are making work more fun and efficient by building an at-work version of Facebook,” the source told TechCrunch. “We will touch code throughout the stack and on all platforms (Web, iOS, Android, etc.).”

At this point, it is unclear what the end-game is for FB@Work, which is currently being worked on by Facebook developers out of London. The program could merely be an internal platform for Facebook (where employees already regularly use their network for business purposes) or it could be a new product intended for a wider market.

Facebook declined to comment on the project, saying they do not respond to rumors and speculation.

A telling sign that FB@Work may be a significant venture is the fact that it's being worked on by the London engineering team, which is led by Lars Rasmussen, one of the two lead engineers behind Graph Search. Rasmussen, also has experience with creating collaborative Web platforms, having developed the now-defunct Google Wave.

If it turns out FB@Work is intended for the general public, TechCrunch's Ingrid Lunden speculates there are two forms the product could take. It could be rolled out as a premium software tool for businesses to purchase, or it could be unveiled as a free program in hopes that expanded Facebook usage will increase ad revenues.

Facebook's attempts to diversify its brand have not always gone as planned. In 2010, the company debuted @facebook.com email addresses in an effort to take down Gmail. But after several years of trying to make Facebook a go-to email provider, the company announced back in February that messages sent to @facebook.com accounts would start forwarding to users' primary email addresses.

However, there does seem to be some interest out there for a better Facebook work platform, especially for tech companies where employees are already heavily using it.

“Facebook Groups and Group Messaging have already been transformative for how we communicate and collaborate at Hearsay Social,” said Clara Shih, the CEO of Hearsay Social. “As a social media software company, we know 100 percent of our employees are on Facebook. Rather than reinvent the wheel or ask employees to login to yet another system, we decided to create a private, unlisted Facebook Group to house many of our real-time company chats and conversations.”

H/T TechCrunch Photo by Phil Whitehouse/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)