Sharepoint 2013 adds new social features

Sharepoint 2013 adds new social features
SharePoint gets a 90-day upgrade cycle

If you still think of SharePoint as document libraries with a nicer interface and more management tools than a file share then you're missing a lot of the value. Increasingly, SharePoint is about connecting employees as well as letting them collaborate on documents.

Microsoft is showing off the new features in SharePoint 2013 at the SharePoint conference this week and many of them are social; you can 'follow' people and topics as well as the documents you need to keep track of and the sites they're kept in.

SharePoint on Office 365 makes sharing documents with partners outside the company easier

SharePoint on Office 365 makes sharing documents with partners outside the company easier

As well as seeing the documents you're keeping in your personal SharePoint library (which Microsoft calls SkyDrive Pro) and documents you've already worked with, SharePoint will suggest documents it thinks you'll be interested in. That's based on the same smart search that will find you PowerPoint presentations rather than garden suppliers when you ask for a "marketing deck".

The social side of SharePoint is going mobile too. The new apps that Microsoft is bringing out for Windows 8, Windows Phone and iOS include both a SkyDrive Pro tool for working with files and a social app for staying up to date.

SharePoint to be updated every 90 days

As with Exchange, Microsoft is increasingly suggesting that businesses use SharePoint through Office 365 rather than running their own servers. That may get even more appealing now that SharePoint will be updated much more often. "We're at the end of three year release cycles," SharePoint senior director Jared Spataro announced; "we're at the beginning of cloud release cycles, every 90 days."

Or as Office corporate VP Jeff Teper told TechRadar, "In three years we'll sit around and wonder why it took so long to move to the cloud, why did we ever do it this other way?"

It also fits with the new model for developing on top of SharePoint, using HTML5 and JavaScript and CSS rather than VBA or .NET to build apps for your business needs yourself, or to buy them from the Office app store, running them on your own servers or on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform.

Bringing the mobile phone world to SharePoint

"We're trying to bring the kind of ecosystem we see in the mobile phone world to enterprise software,". "We still want to appeal to more experienced developers. Something like a complex insurance processing workflow shouldn't be done by some user in an afternoon; it needs a rigorous process. But the more things we can do to empower end users to solve their own problems the better and that's how we approach SharePoint."

Adding new features and improvements to SharePoint won't affect those apps (and if you're running SharePoint 2013 in house it won't affect your customised sites either, because you can run existing sites in SharePoint 2010 mode on top of SharePoint 2013 until you're ready to migrate them to take advantage of the new features).

Businesses can write their own SharePoint apps or buy apps they can host

Businesses can write their own SharePoint apps or buy apps they can host

"You can get rich customisation, whether you're running on Azure or elsewhere," Teper told us, "and we can rev Office 365 very quickly without impacting those apps. We're used to this in the consumer world; you've got Farmville and Facebook changing independently but they still talk to each other. Farmville can iterate incrementally very rapidly and not be a bottleneck to new updates coming from Facebook."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.