The three social-mobile apps that inspired Marc Benioff to revamp Salesforce

Credit: IDGNS

Salesforce's big announcement from Dreamforce is Salesforce1, a new platform that's meant to unify its previous platforms and cater to the rapidly mobilizing workforce. But some of the company's inspiration came from a very different place -- the mobile consumer apps LINE, Facebook, and Twitter.

CEO Marc Benioff explained that Salesforce's "phone first" initiative started about two years ago, then "hit the wall" because they didn't have enough APIs. But as the company began building the new APIs necessary to get data out of Salesforce systems and into mobile apps, he also began looking at consumer apps for inspiration.

The first one was LINE, a social messaging app that started in Japan and has expanded internationally, now reaching more than 200 million customers. Much as Facebook did on the desktop, LINE has expanded beyond pure messaging and enabled applications like games.

"I've been so impressed with the mobile technology I've seen all over the world, but especially impressed by Naver's product, LINE. When I saw LINE for the first time, when I saw how they were doing publisher, how they were doing UI, I said 'this has to be a vision for usability.' Their vision of a publisher, if we could incorporate that into our product, but in the way they're selling modules on a consumer basis, we want to bring those ISV's into LINE." 

He continued, "Facebook's mobile app is world class, it transformed my use of Facebook on the phone. The way they've used the left-hand nav, they way they're evolving it at bottom of the screen, it's awesome. How can we use that to increase our usability?"

Number three? "The last one, very important, we looked at Twitter. The idea of feed-first, [presenting information in a] super-simple, super straightforward way."

Benioff continued by explaining that the company had secretly moved Chatter to the Salesforce1 platform over the last year, and was beta testing it by releasing new versions of the app in the App Store without telling customers that the back-end platform had been changed. The result? A bunch of new five-star reviews, said Benioff.

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