Yammer Really Needs a Real Mac OS X Client App

I’ve been using Yammer both in my dayjob and StartupGuild and find it quite useful for making conversations with people from other sides of the world. What is Yammer? Put simply, Yammer is like Facebook, but for companies. You can post updates and other people can comment on those updates, making it a conversation. Its convenient to set up forum-like “discussion groups” that you only want to share with people at your company.

However unlike Facebook, content in Yammer is private by default and can only be accessed by other people with the same e-mail domain (the part to the right of the “@” sign in your e-mail address). Being in a private network, you can feel quite safe to discuss things that can’t be normally shared outside company boundaries.

But that “one domain” feature can be a problem for mavericks like me. I’m part of more than one Yammer network and have multiple accounts that corresponds to the various networks that I’m in. Yammer doesn’t make it easy to switch between networks in their website – you’ll need to logout and then re-login using the other account to “switch” between networks.

Yammer also provides desktop and mobile client applications to access your Yammer network in addition to the website. The  desktop client is based on Adobe Air and with it comes the usual lack of functionalities and integration with many other cross-platform applications. It’s their second iteration of the desktop client and still based on Adobe Air.

Yammer does talk about having a native Mac client – but it has been more than a year since their last update without any Mac app in sight. Probably a Mac client isn’t their priority and it’s hard to see that the recent Microsoft acquisition will improve support for Apple’s OS.

Yammer: make a native Mac desktop app - Cindy Alvarez

There is another 3rd party Desktop client for Yammer: Gabble. It’s a pretty decent application. However Gabble still lacks multi-account support. It takes quite a lot of screen space – designed more like a full-fledged e-mail application instead of a satellite “instant messaging” app, which fits more to Yammer’s use cases.

So I’d figure to give a go making a Yammer OS X app. A nice one that’ll be a joy to use and written with the Mac power user in mind. It’ll be a paid app – casual users can continue to use the free official Adobe Air client or Gabble. These will be the app’s primary value propositions:

  • Multi-account support. The power tool for the power user, now you can be logged in to multiple Yammer accounts at the same time and easily switch between them.
  • Menu Bar access. Like any decent instant messaging app, you can get to it from any applications for a quick post or update.
  • Desktop integration. The whole enchilada: drag-and-drop files, Mountain Lion’s Notification Center, Services menu, emoji support, etc.

We call this app Scuttlebutt. The original name was Water Cooler, named after the water cooler effect. But I couldn’t get a good domain name for it. So Scuttlebutt (which is another name for water cooler with an interesting connotation) is the second best option.

There is a snag that may be preventing Scuttlebutt from seeing the light of day: Yammer might pull the plug. As one product manager (Drew Dillon) put it, they are “actively discouraging 3rd party clients”. That’s a bit sad for us Mac users since it doesn’t look like they have been doing a good job for Mac users.

Drew Dillon - Yammer discouraging 3rd party clients

We’re dependent on Yammer to provide us with an API key for Scuttlebutt. This key determines which Yammer networks that Scuttlebutt had access to. Thankfully a Yammer engineer (Sidd Singh) provides an API key for “temporary global access”. Let’s hope that it will be more “permanent” global access.

Yammer Sidd Singh

Anyway we’ve starting work on Scuttlebutt now. We’ve got Scuttlebutt’s website up and a launch list ready. Sign up below when you want to be a beta tester or just get the first scoop when Scuttlebutt is launched.

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