Recently I wrote about an Outlook add-on called TwInbox, which effectively brings Twitter into Outlook. For more on Twinbox and why people want social networking in their Outlook view see my article “Using Twitter from Outlook 2007,” InstantDoc ID 102487. However, TwInbox is not the only Outlook add-on that brings social networking into your email client. Yammer is an interactive collaboration tool that connects people in a manner similar to Twitter's and even Facebook’s, but uses an Outlook add-in as an interface option for their web application.

Yammer provides some benefits for organizations including the ability for employees to post their status (what they are working on), share files, and reference past conversations. Also employees can interact with co-workers without resorting to external, popular social web applications such as Facebook and Twitter. Yammer can be used to discuss company-specific information in a secure, semi-formal manner, and it provides searchable history for ongoing reference.

Figure 1 shows the Yammer (version 1.0.0.25) plug-in within Outlook 2007. Users have some control over how content is presented in the Yammer plug-in. Figure 2 shows the available client settings in the plug-in. Yammer also adds a toolbar button in Outlook, but its only function appears to be to toggle on/off the Yammer window. Yammer keeps an image and data cache in the user’s profile, as well as an xml file for the user’s settings called settings.yam. In Windows 7, this storage is found at c:\Users\<user_name>\AppData\LocalRoaming\Yammer\.

The actual posted feed content is not stored locally and has no apparent impact on Exchange or the local .ost or .pst files. Yammer reloads the data from the yammer.com website into the plug in each time Outlook is opened. This extends the time needed for Outlook to open, and requires Internet access if you want to see Yammer content. (If an Internet connection is unavailable, Yammer doesn't provide an offline option.) All data is sent and received over SSL from Yammer servers.

Yammer maintains general security boundaries defined by SMTP domain names. By default, users who share the same company SMTP domain can join their Yammer network. The free version of Yammer does not allow granular security, but Yammer has two levels of their enterprise application (at $3 and $5 per user per month) that allows administrators to segment groups of their users and apply policies on how Yammer is used in the organization. With either of the paid levels of service, your company retains ownership of the data hosted on yammer.com. The user who creates the Yammer network for the SMTP domain assigns it a unique name and an administrator can be assigned from there. Yammer uses groups and tags to organize users and information and is administered through their website. The Yammer network creator is not a Yammer administrator by default. A company’s Yammer administrator can then fine tune security within that boundary to restrict posting by IP address or user as well. For a complete breakdown of features available at the different pricing levels, go to www.yammer.com.

The Outlook plug-in is only one access method for the Yammer network. Like Facebook, Yammer has several options for network access, including the yammer.com website (shown in Figure 3), Firefox plugin, and Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Android, and iPhone applications.