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Microsoft Unveils Publicly Accessible Office 365 Network

Microsoft recently launched a preview of its new Office 365 Network, an online community portal for exchanges between "IT pros, technical experts, product enthusiasts and Office 365 customers."

Though the Office 365 Network requires users to have a Microsoft account or Office 365 log-in credentials to comment, it's open to members of the general public who simply want to search for "conversations" about Microsoft products such as Office 365, SharePoint, Skype for Business and Yammer.

The Office 365 Network actually replaces the Office 365 technical forums that were based on Yammer signups. Microsoft isn't discontinuing Yammer, the company's enterprise social networking service, but Yammer won't be the basis of the new Office 365 Network. The earlier Yammer-based forums had typically keyed off so-called "YamJams," a sprawling series of Q&A sessions that Microsoft hosted from time to time. However, you had to be a part of a particular Yammer Office 365 group to know that these YamJams were taking place.

Yammer will continue to be used for Office 365 discussions, but Microsoft is reserving its use for an "invitation-only network for Office Server & Services MVPs and Microsoft product teams." It'll also be used by "Yammer Community Managers," according to the announcement.

The new Office 365 Network, in contrast to the Yammer-based version, is more open to all, much like Microsoft's various support forums, except that it isn't a support forum at all. It's just there for interactions, according to Michael Holste, a community manager of the Office 365 Network.

"It [the Office 365 Network] is a central for education and thought leadership on best practices, product news, live events, and roadmap," Holste explained, in a guidelines post.

He specifically noted that users should not post support questions at the Office 365 Network. Microsoft has various community pages to address those questions.

Users of the Office 365 Network create their own home page, which can be used to show the relevant content that they select. Instructions on how to set up such a home page are described in this getting started post.

The old Yammer-based Office 365 forum had some limitations, according to a blog post by Naomi Moneypenny, chief technology officer at Synxi and an Office 365 MVP. Less than 100,000 people used the Yammer-based network, she noted. Search engines couldn't find the conversations, and users had to be a member of the network to access the content, she added.

The new Office 365 Network is designed to surface content more generally, and Yammer didn't quite work to that end, according MVP Tom Kretzmer.

"Yammer is still the best tool to use for enterprises, but for content which is intended to be consumed by millions of people, it was felt a different tool was better suited," Kretzmer explained in an Office 365 Network post.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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