Facebook apps, Twitter see massive growth in the workplace

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We all know that Facebook apps, particularly the gaming, ones are incredibly popular. What might be surprising, however, is how rapidly the use of Facebook apps in the workplace has grown in the past year.

According to new research from network security vendor Palo Alto networks, app traffic in the work place grew from four percent to 14% between October 2010 and December 2011. Time spent on games from specialist social game developer Zynga — responsible for titles such as FarmVille, CityVille, and Mafia Wars –, meanwhile, now accounts for some five percent of all social traffic in the workplace. Some 53% of the companies surveyed were found to have traffic being directed to Zynga’s gaming apps.

Time spent purely on Facebook fell from 69% to 39% in the same period. According to Palo Alto this is indicative of a shift from passive to active use of social media in the workplace.

The networking vendor’s data also indicates something of an explosion in social media usage in the work place. The period under investigation, it claims, saw a “300% increase in active social networking”.

The study, which claims to provide “a global view into application usage based on assessments of the raw application traffic from more than 1,600 enterprises between April 2011 and November 2011” also reports a massive gain in the traction of Twitter.

“Twitter browsing at work alone grew by more than 700 percent year-over-year,” it says.

The study also found that file sharing is prolific in the workspace. File sharing sites reportedly appear on 92% of the participating business networks. “In total,” the report says, “65 different browser-based file-sharing variants were found with an average of 13 being used in each of the analyzed organisations”.

While social gaming may be dangerous to productivity, Palo Alto reckons that file sharing poses significant risks to the companies involved. These risks, it says, are only magnified by the fact that “the use of evasive techniques by these applications implies that they are often operating unchecked on corporate networks”.

According to Matt Keil, senior research analyst at Palo Alto Networks, “The most surprising finding from this data is the one that is most counter-intuitive: non-web-based traffic and application use is much more significant than most people think.”

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