Microsoft: SharePoint 2013 Will Suck at Social – Get Something Else!

Of course, I’m blowing this slightly out of proportion, but really the message remains the same. Microsoft touts the next version of SharePoint as a breakthrough in social computing, but then turns around and say that they’re not really expecting to get it right and that you’ll need something else to really get social going. In fact, social in SharePoint 2013 won’t be good at all so you might as well just buy SharePoint 2010 now and then get the third-party add-ons that you’ll need to get anyway.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you what I’m talking about.

Last week, I picked up on an article citing Jonathan Barrett, a Microsoft employee in Australia, in which the main message was that if you want to get going with social in SharePoint, you want to buy Newsgator (and thanks to Alex Machester for reminding me)

Mr. Barrett said, according to the article, “We do have basic social features in SharePoint; they will be improved in [SharePoint 15], but that will not be at the level of feature richness that Newsgator has.”

Further, he said “I would say as a customer don’t wait for Wave15, unless you’ve got a really slow social media strategy or unless you want to use some really baseline features, I would start going ahead with our platform and Newsgator on top”

Now, this was said at an event heavily influenced by Newsgator, but unless Mr. Barrett really has no idea what he’s talking about, it’s a great message from Redmond. As late as March this year, Jared Spataro was chatting about the virtues of SharePoint as a social platform, and although he did mention the importance of third-party vendors, it was pretty clear that the next version would be oh’ so great on its own.

Spataro’s message rhymes with the official marketing chit-chat we would expect to hear at this point, which is essentially “Yeah, what we said a couple of months ago regarding how great SharePoint 2010 is, well, that’s bollocks. What you really, really want is to get the next version, which is going to be amazing and come with small cute kittens”.

Speaking of which, I’m also anticipating Spataro’s 2015 chat on to be something like “Yeah, we know SharePoint 2013 social features suck, but just wait to see what’s coming in the next version”.

Hold on, did you just say ‘a great message from Redmond’?

Yes, I did, and thanks for picking up on that. You see, I think Microsoft is on the completely wrong track with social. SharePoint has a three year product cycle, and before that at least two years of development, and the companies need at least a year for upgrading. Essentially, what customers get when they open up their newly upgraded SharePoint site is what was current five to six years ago. That’s why, when we got ‘social in SharePoint 2010’ we essentially got a glorified RSS reader and an innovative idea of tagging content (you know, like we did back in 2003).

So, if Mr. Barrett is right, he may not be the most popular guy in Microsoft these days, but he’s also sending a very important message of good news: Microsoft realizes and publicly says that it sucks at social and that you need to get something else if you want anything but the basics.

If this can be the start of a trend in which SharePoint becomes a platform first and product last, then the focus should shift from selling licenses to providing a stable and viable platform for long-term evolution. Today, because of Microsoft’s focus on selling licenses for SharePoint, the product cycle has become a ‘run like hell for one year, speculate about what’s coming for one year, be a newbie like everyone else for one year’.

Want to learn more about my thoughts? Check out my article on why SharePoint Server isn’t ready for the enterprise.


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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

8 thoughts on “Microsoft: SharePoint 2013 Will Suck at Social – Get Something Else!”

  1. A million times agree! SP2010’s social features are not only heavily lacking, but they are also not extensible because of severe limitations in the Object Model that don’t even allow you to reimplement certain features Microsoft uses due to internal visibility. Seeing how some features were clearly implemented by people working against a checklist of “We must have these features” rather than people who actually build social features (like tagging systems… or wikis… or blogs… or feed aggregators/mashups… Or really, anything the rest of the world built for 15 years).

    We’ve spent 2 years customizing the hell out of SP2010, and so far I really think I’m advocating against upgrading to SP2013 since it adds nothing new so far to any of the pain points of 2007/2010, it just adds new ones.

  2. As always Bjorn – a very timely and accurate observation – with such a large platform, SP has to tread a fine line with its upgrade cycle – long enough to make investing the developing applications on top of the platform seem worth while, and short enough to ensure people feel like its moving forward – 3 years is about as short as they can get. It makes complete sense to augment SharePoint with a social product which is more agile and up-to-date, and focus of making the SP experience as good as it can possibly be, by putting the user at the centre of your design process.

    1. Cerys,

      What makes sense is completely separating the platform from the product. At the moment, SharePoint the platform isn’t getting the attention it needs to make it a compelling development environment, especially when it comes to web.

      SharePoint for web is just plain awful, especially compared to more modern frameworks. Microsoft on the other hand still keeps touting the Publishing stuff as the really great way of doing web development, which is like saying that it’s a great idea to build a chocolate factory when you’re a bit peckish for a snack. Rather than admitting that a team of engineers is not what you need to put on your socks in the morning, they start adding easier ways to manage your engineers, recruit them, and market why engineers are great.

      The result is that, lo’ and behold, in SharePoint 2013, you get such wonderful new innovations as custom URLs for your Publishing web pages, an amazing SEO capability, especially now that Google has changed their search ranking completely and page URL is about as important to SEO as whether the designer uses red or black nail polish.


      1. Bjorn,

        Would you care to elaborate on that? Why is “SharePoint for web just plain awful, especially compared to more modern frameworks”…?

        (I do have some SharePoint development knowledge.)


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