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Slack's bait and switch (opkode.com)
757 points by jcbrand on Mar 12, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 350 comments

With all the (appropriate) smugness of "I told you so" surrounding this issue, I think that many people's attitude around sticking to IRC and mail is a reason why something like slack could even take off so quickly.

I regularly speak to people like that, who just plain refuse (are unable?) to even see the difference between a chat like slack (or telegram, or mattermost, or or or...) where I can post images/videos inline, use proper markup etc, and a combination of IRC and email. "But you can just send images by mail!" they shout. Yes, you can. But the user experience will be a different one. And it doesn't even matter that I personally prefer the slack-like UX. Many other people seem to prefer it too, that's what matters. For anyone who's only mildly technical, setting up IRC is only a small hurdle, but it's one of many.

IMHO, if you want people to use anything else but slack, sticking your head in the sand and screaming "you can do all of that in IRC" won't get you anywhere and is equivalent to complaining about the very nature of humanity. It might feel good to scream out your weltschmerz, but it won't change anything.

Okay, I'll take the bait. I'm about as good a representative sample of the people you're talking about as anyone else.

I'm 39. I've been in technology in a professional capacity for 22 years, longer now than perhaps a few folks on HN have been alive. I wrote my first computer programs over 30 years ago, started online with local BBSs and then eWorld and then the internet.

I've seen a lot of stuff come and go. The tech industry as a whole has, over the last decade, adopted an especially frenzied pace that looks an awful lot like someone lost in the woods, freaking out, running in different directions trying to figure out where they've been and where they're supposed to be going.

There's nobody I can wag a finger at and say, "see, you didn't learn the last time 'round", because with a constant influx of new people, there's always a big group of folks that will adopt the latest thing because it's the latest thing, and have no memory of the last 30 years of latest things, and haven't been stung before when the latest thing fizzles out and takes a chunk of your time or infrastructure investment along with it.

Slack had advantages, sure. But it's hardly the first time that some service has come along and offered advantages over the tired old thing -- all except for a public, common protocol -- and then decided to take their ball and go home and to hell with everyone else. My staid desire for things being built on open protocols and available to people who want to self-host it doesn't come from some hardnosed ideology, it comes from years of, "oh no, this shit again."

Unfortunately, comments like yours tend to dismissively shout down the comments from the been-there-done-that folks, and so we're locked in a particularly self-defeating Eternal September that's costing the tech industry an incalculable amount of money.

In my more cynical moments, I wonder if a cadre of old farts oughtta start getting together and giving the less experienced folks the advice they want to hear, just to see how long it takes them to catch on: "building infrastructure out of walled gardens is a good idea, because they are commercial businesses and will be able to offer you more features than the slow-moving open source alternatives that haven't changed much in a long time".

>Okay, I'll take the bait. I'm about as good a representative sample of the people you're talking about as anyone else.

This starts off strong, but then ...

>I'm 39. I've been in technology in a professional capacity for 22 years, longer now than perhaps a few folks on HN have been alive. I wrote my first computer programs over 30 years ago, started online with local BBSs and then eWorld and then the internet.

If I were typing this in slack, this is where the first :facepalm: emoji would appear.

This is the mentality that caused the now-semi-famous HN post in the early days of dropbox, arguing that it was useless because with a combination of [ simple CLI tools that nontechnical people have never even heard of ], you could create the "same" functionality.

Say it with me: Being so simple that utterly nontechnical people can use (edit: not just 'use', but 'deploy and administer') IS important functionality. That's what made Dropbox, and it's what's made Slack. You don't have to be an IT pro to deploy it successfully. You don't have to be a programmer. You just click half a dozen buttons, all of which are helpfully color coded so that your unwillingness to read any text on the screen won't be an obstacle.

Yes, there are things you lose when you "build infrastructure out of walled gardens" -- but the reason some people prefer cathedrals vs bazaars is that they often have much lower barriers to entry, and for many people that is a worthwhile tradeoff.

What mentality are you talking about? That so-called falepalm-worthy quote is just them describing their experience. You're reading way too much into this.

> the reason some people prefer cathedrals vs bazaars is that they often have much lower barriers to entry

There's nothing inherit about these "cathedrals" that require them to be walled gardens. Slack could have been an open protocol, but they decided not to be.

Just curious, don't you think it'd be much harder to justify their valuation if it's just an open protocol?

Yes, I do think so. But I also think fundamental functionality like team chat should be a solved problem by now, and shouldn't be so concentrated to a single company.

Obviously, having a captive userbase to extract revenue from is good for their valuation. It probably isn't so great for the users though.

Also allows them to invest more in the product, which is great for the users

Which is why they fixed their resource hog of a client right?

By no means am I calling the product perfect. Resource hogging is an issue that is particularly important to most HN users.

But would you say that they're _not_ investing in the product? They're improving on search, their API, adding new integrations with Github, etc. Those might not be the things that matter the most to you or other HN users, but they are investments in the product.

In theory.

Have you used their client?

Yep, use it every day. Agree that it takes a lot of resources. But lack of investments in one aspect of the product doesn't mean that they haven't / aren't investing in other aspects.

> There's nothing inherit

nit: inherent.

> This is the mentality that caused the now-semi-famous HN post in the early days of dropbox, arguing that it was useless because with a combination of [ simple CLI tools that nontechnical people have never even heard of ], you could create the "same" functionality.

That's a strawman - no one said dropbox was useless to everyone: this is not about how simple it is to replicate the functionality, but who controls the data. The point gp was raising is that surrendering control your data to a 3rd party company has costs most people do not consider until it's too late - and this happens time and again ("oh no, this shit again"). How many stories have you read about downtime, account bans/freezes, and companies winding down or sold with little or no notice and no way to retrieve your data? Is it a worthy tradeoff for a shiny UI?

Exactly, thank you. I wasn't FWIW one of the folks on HN who responded to Dropbox with "but rsync...". (And I was on HN when it debuted!) I did express concern about the privacy and security implications of storing sensitive information with them, and if I remember right, they did have a partial breach early on.

But, they handled it well and they've never screwed over their users and they have partially resolved the long-standing file transfer problem (https://xkcd.com/949/).

So I still have those concerns, but overall it's a great service and I've recommended it to a few folks over the years.

It helps also that there are some open alternatives on the scene now, so if you make Dropbox some critical part of your infrastructure, it's feasible to switch to something else if Dropbox suddenly decides they want to focus only on the smartphone market.

Slack had the ease-of-use and feature advantages -- which I acknowledged -- but it was too young and there were no open alternatives that matched it feature-for-feature. That made it dangerous to rely on too much. i.e., I'd still use it, but I wouldn't make it the de facto communication system for a company.

First off, thanks for the reply. I've been going through a bit of deja-vu myself with this. While I came to the "game" quite a bit later than you, I've been stung by the google and facebook xmpp stunts and so I never bought into slack as some sort of new solution to communication "because you can just log in from IRC."

So yes, a bunch of "old farts" are a good a necessary corrective in our hype-driven environment. I agree with the assessment that slack is just another walled garden and comes with all the problems those bring. I even agree with the "open protocol, optionally self-hosted" conclusion. I just don't like the conclusion (not explicitely stated by you, but definitely by others) that that open protocol should be IRC and email, and that the UI for them needs to be pure text.

Put a bit shorter: the people have chosen between $SLACK over $OLD_STUFF, so if you want to use something open and still sway them then you'll have to change what's on offer vs slack.

Converse.js looks like a prime example of doing just that, as does e.g. conversations. I'd much rather we get our shit together and build jabber into something usable and beautiful than go back to IRC and email.

> I just don't like the conclusion (not explicitely stated by you, but definitely by others) that that open protocol should be IRC and email, and that the UI for them needs to be pure text.

I work with a guy like that. I've got a lot of respect for him, but yes, his approach to things causes a lot of headaches for other techs in the company. (He likes to send config files by email ... inline, after gzipping and base64-ing them.)

There's a middleground. If more people tried harder to rely on software they could truly own, vs SaaS, it would force more companies to release open source APIs and libraries and all but the crankiest old farts would shut up.

I like things to be easy too, but not so much when it bites me in the ass later.

Your suggestion for extending jabber seems reasonable.

I'm an older fart than you and as my remaining years drift away I just want to get things done and Slack helps with that like irc never did. Despite running Linux at home, I also like Jira, Confluence and MS Project at work for the same reasons.

Year of the Linux desktop never happened, KDE semantic desktop never happened, Python in Chrome never happened, Self never took off, Lisp never took off, we're still writing coffee like we did in the 90s. Nothing happened as much as we hoped it would and we have to just go with what we've got.

This year I'm dropping Linux at gone and going to Windows, after 15 years.

> This year I'm dropping Linux at gone and going to Windows, after 15 years.

Kinda funny since I feel like windows is taking more and more weird turns since windows 8 regarding UX, UI consistence etc. From win 95 to win 7 it mostly felt like consistent evolution, but now it seems they tried to modernize different parts of the OS over night and none of the designers and devs involved were allowed to talk to each other.

I think the "fuck it I'm old, don't care anymore, just want it to work and look nice" goto solution is still the Mac, even in 2018, even after all those recent os x mess ups (I'm old, don't care, etc., get it?)

Apart from Jira and Confluence, Atlassian also has a team communication product called Stride, which is free to used under certain plans. Are there any advantages to using Slack over Stride? I've heard a lot of people complain how Slack is Electron based and a resource hog.

Mainly the ecosystem effect. Lots of integrations are slack only for quite a while. Not sure if hipchat integrations are compatible w/ stride or not.

It totally is a hog; but most of all you miss the tight integration with Jira/Confluence offered by Stride. But then Slack is a cool so it has that going for it

slack's desktop client is electron based, and while people may bitch about it they don't actually have to use it. the web ui (which is just shoved in an electron wrapper for the desktop client) lacks a few of the desktop features but nothing major. it's pretty usable for anyone who hates electron.

The biggest thing I'm missing is a quick way to switch between groups. Unless there's some kind of shortcut or other thing I'm missing.

browser tabs

The thing is, no one is arguing that propietary and closed is better than public and open. The problem comes when propietary and closed become the "better" option to the masses (faster, easier to use, more user friendly, more available, etc); at that point, you can protest, but average users don't like to give up convenience for ideology, hence on the long run the only way to beat closed and propietary is to have something public and open that can compete.

> The tech industry as a whole has, over the last decade, adopted an especially frenzied pace that looks an awful lot like someone lost in the woods, freaking out, running in different directions trying to figure out where they've been and where they're supposed to be going.

I think there's a simpler explanation: people are trying to find new business models. The old model of individuals paying tens or hundreds of dollars for software is slowly dying, and it's on full display in the iOS app store where even $5 is perceived to be a lot to charge for an app. So we need new models. The rise of SaaS is tied to that shift. in-app purchases and related psychological shenanigans are related to that shift.

The SV elders, like Peter Thiel of Palantir, now more than ever seem to favor rent-seeking business models and started selecting for those businesses 5 years ago. To course-correct, someone in technology will have to discover a new business model. I'm personally betting that we'll see a backlash and new models wherein people pay so there is no chance of data harvesting (going back from SaaS to standalone software)

Yes, when everything from Word, to CAD/CAM, to espionage is being priced on a yearly (soon to be monthly) a la cart SaaS subscription basis, you know that it's all about cash flows and lock-in. As you point out it really started after 2010 and has accelerated since 2015.

Good points, and it doesn't make Slack or anyone else look any better. They aren't doing what they do for the good of communication and long term retention. They are making themselve a single vendor point of failure on purpose, like so many companies have tried and will try to do with their customers.

I don't believe there is a dichotomy between IRC and Slack. In fact, Rocket Chat and Mattermost show that locally hosted platforms can be developed openly and serve a similar purpose.

The reason they're shooting down the "been-there-done-that" folks is because the "been-there-done-that" folks, despite having been there and done that, insist on sticking to things like IRC and email, despite constantly seeing this mass dissatisfaction with those tools.

As one of the been-there-done-that crowd, when we see these "new" tools coming out, many of us have this "here we go again" reaction. I'm not a religious person but by damn, the Christian Bible can be relevantly quoted here:

    What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
And it gets truer year after year. So much developer time is spent re-inventing wheel after wheel. This time in Java! This time in Python! This time in Electron! This time as a SaaS! This time in the browser! This time with emojis! I fully expect to turn 60 and read about the latest cool new text chat app on the front page of the 2038 version of HN.

I'm pretty sure that email and sms represent the lowest common denominator. IRC is a fringe protocol, and while there may be "mass dissatisfaction" with those tools, they are omni-present, and central to most business.

The truth is that no closed platform will ever reach the universality that email has. The prevalence of various chat platforms looks like a race to replace sms. At the current rate, there may be no winners, and only losers.

That is not everything. Otherwise we would be still using physical mail.

Did you read the article to the end? The author isn't sticking his head in the sand, he puts his money where his mouth is and it currently developing a Slack-like client built on XMPP. The protocol can support many of the Slack-style features you cite, but a lot of the clients are currently lagging behind. Also, if you let hatred of other people's imagined smugness drive your technical and tooling decisions then ... well, I'm not sure it's the most effective metric to use.

> The author isn't sticking his head in the sand

I think he was talking about HN users who argue that IRC does everything slack does.

> One of the sad things that has come out of Slack's meteoric rise to success, has been how many free and open source projects have jumped over to using it (after previously using IRC or XMPP).

He's definitely honing in on a group of people who should support federated solutions and instead evangelized the opposite. Ironically there's a similar frustration with using the proprietary GitHub service rather than open source git sites like GitLab

Apples to oranges, GitHub provides Git as a service and Git is open source, so you can take your repo any time and host it yourself in number of different ways. It just happens that GitHub is most popular (for now) Git As A Service, probably due to the fact that GitLab had few horrible outages regularly every few months for past 2-3 years and hosting it yourself is/was also a bit of nightmare. Anyway, it's not like that. ;)

The problem with GitHub silo is not the repo hosting per se but the ancillary services. Issues are not easily exported. The milestones and related metadata are not easily exported. Even the identities are not easily exported since you can use noreply email addresses in git actions if you turn off public email

Neither of these are Git features. Vote with your legs if you think what you want should be available in a service like this.

My company has gone through three different milestones and issue apps. Sure its mot manually exportable but thats why we pay for data entry staff.

There are many different reasons to choose a service provider. Being FOSS should factor in, but it should hardly be the major factor. Currently, Slack and Github are better choices (Slack is far easier to get started using than IRC, and Github currently has more of a network effect than anything out there). While yes, it would be nice for open source projects to use open source solutions, they should be choosing the best tools for the job. If those aren't open source solutions, so be it.

Yeah anytime Slack is mentioned at work someone brings up IRC. So I get what he’s saying.

Nobody argues that. But they may very well argue that IRC doesn't everything they want it to do.

My argument is that IRC is better because it doesn't do a lot of things. I really don't feel my day would be enhanced by people pasting images or animated emojis into my IRC channels.

Ugh I messed up my post, "doesn't" was supposed to be "does".

See the replies to my comment 10 days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16495893

Most of the replies are criticising the ghastly inefficient app. What is wrong with that?

I know people who literally argue that. Needless to say, I don't agree with them. :P

Thanks for clarifying this for me while I was afk. :) I wouldn't constrain it to HN only, but yes, that's my point.

Interesting if it ends up supporting Emoji Reactions (note, this is not just Emoji, but Emoji Reactions to messages) and Threads

That's the right answer, I'm very skeptical of people saying "this can be done in XMPP" but when it comes to the actual implementation it falls short

Edit: also note the author updated the article and Emoji Reactions are still not supported in XMPP but are in development

> but a lot of the clients are currently lagging behind.

^ this.

A lot of people are so mad at Slack and extolling the virtues of XMPP and IRC and fully forget that there are about zero clients for either XMPP or IRC that have the same functionality (consistent across multiple platforms) as Slack.

Yes, I'm fully aware of exactly one client for Android (Conversations) that supports mobile-friendly XEPS. And yes, I'm fully aware of IRCCloud, a closed-source, proprietary 100% web-based product on top of IRC (all the things that people seem to hate about Slack. Go figure)

> And yes, I'm fully aware of IRCCloud, a closed-source, proprietary 100% web-based product on top of IRC (all the things that people seem to hate about Slack. Go figure)

My understanding is that many of IRCCloud's Slack-like features are based on the open IRCv3 standard. If this standard ever takes off (fingers crossed...), IRCCloud will have a lot less vendor lock-in than Slack does.

> If this standard ever takes off

Hard to imagine it will for Slack's audience. Slack is serving the case for the non-technical folk extraordinarily well right now. A significant amount of their user base doesn't care about standards or IRC channels. They just want a consistent, well-designed product that does the things they need it to for work. They've never opened a terminal in their life and they don't need the terminal-irc-gateway that this recent change has killed off.

All of that is true, not to mention that Slack is free (up to a certain point).

But many IT departments require on-premise hosting, which Slack doesn't offer. Users don't care about open standards, but maybe their sysadmins do. If IRCv3 can capture this audience, it has a chance to co-exist with Slack.

> But many IT departments require on-premise hosting, which Slack doesn't offer.

Less and less IT departments do that now, since so many things move to the cloud. When you have all your stuff in Gmail and Google Docs already, having Slack is a no-brainer.

IRCv3 has the same problems as XMPP's XEPs [1]. You need servers capable of handling these standards, and then you need clients capable of handling these standards.

In the meantime people will chose other platforms that provide better and more consistent experiences.

[1] https://gultsch.de/xmpp_2016.html

That's entirely possible, but commercial products are not infallible either. I remember a time before Slack when many companies were using Skype for intra-company chatrooms. Then Microsoft managed the product to death and people started looking for new solutions again.

E-mail is about as terrible as IRC and yet it just won't die.

> E-mail is about as terrible as IRC and yet it just won't die.

At least with email you're able to send messages to those on different "networks".

> Then Microsoft managed the product to death and people started looking for new solutions again.

That's very true. Products fail. So instead of blaming others for failing to provide integrations, I would look at what made these products popular in the first place. Unfortunately most discussions around XMPP and IRC rarely actually discuss this.

Speaking of Skype. You can actually see how management fails to understand the popularity and features of other communication platforms in each release. It's funny and sad at the same time.

Sorry if I keep repeating myself. If you suddenly feel that IRC is too feature free or outdated for your needs, have some courtesy and consider a modern, federated and open solution instead. Matrix/Riot.im roughly has the pros of Slack (yes, including IRC bridges).



>"sticking your head in the sand and screaming "you can do all of that in IRC" won't get you anywhere and is equivalent to complaining about the very nature of humanity."

Did we read the same article? This article had nothing do do with IRC knee-jerk reactionaries.

The author's main point is that Slack results in a walled garden and information silo'ing of our conversations.

The author then went on to provide a potential antidote to that problem by discussing a javascript project they been working on.

I should have made this clearer: I am not talking about the author of that blog post but rather of a subset of the tech community discussing slack's move and business model.

In other words, you set up a strawman.

Have you read any previous discussion om HN about slack? There are plenty of people holding views OP attacked, so hardly a strawman.

> IMHO, if you want people to use anything else but slack, sticking your head in the sand and screaming "you can do all of that in IRC" won't get you anywhere and is equivalent to complaining about the very nature of humanity. It might feel good to scream out your weltschmerz, but it won't change anything.

This is not what the article says. The article says clearly that everyone knows we want these fancy UIs in open chat apps. But the problem is funding. You need to pay 10+ developers, each costing between $100k and $200k (50-100 without tax) for 1-3 years to get such a nifty UI and after that you still need 1-3 devs each year to keep up with all the changes in the IT world. Someone needs to PAY that to get such a nifty UI.

The article also argues correctly that you are currently paying for it by giving away your data which is worth a lot more than a few 100k USD/year. And all you get is a more nifty UI. Wow.

And instead of understanding that you are exploited you complain about how stupid the people are that fight for protection of your values. That is REALLY stupid. The same level a child complaining about needing to go to bed early than the parents while the loud and colorful ads try to keep the child in front of the TV until 2 am or longer.

Start acting like a grown up.

Calling it just a "nifty UI" really, really downplays the advancements and ease of use added to it. To the point where the jab at Slack is just childish.

You could have done without that last sentence.

True, was a little over the top. Thanks for the feedback.

The author can start acting like a grown up by making enough money to fund the development or shut up. If he knew users are already paying for Slack, then obviously he can do what grown ups like Slack did to get paid users as well.

While I haven't checked for proof I wouldn't be surprised if the author is in fact spending a lot of his time not just blogging and informing about the situation, but also working on improving things.

I challenge you to do it better. Ah, screw that. I don't think you can, the way you talk. I challenge you to do something much simper: Read an RFC and try to provide interview style non-compiling code to implement it, then write a single blog post explaining what you did, applying a correct and reasonable free license to your source code and your blog post. That's something an untalented hobby programmer can do if he puts his mind to it.

I'm sure he is working on improving it. It's all in his article.

Still, he is stil "working on it". While Slack has already "delivered".

It is childish to say that whatever feature Slack has is "simply" something that can "just" be added to XMPP.

To me, the author's complaint of how Slack rips users of is the same as customer who complains when it takes month to "just" add a feature.

He himself hasn't even done it. He planned to do it, anybody can plan to do things. Anyone can be working on something that will change the world. Only few delivers. He complain about funding, while he is adding feature that he claimed was "simple".

Why does simple feature needs funding? And if Slack is ripping people of on feature that can simply be added on XMPP, then put your house on loan, create better XMPP client and earns millions of dollars. You don't need funding. That's what being adult is.

why would [enough people] pay for slack if they didn't need information in a silo?

> who just plain refuse (are unable?) to even see the difference between a chat like slack (or telegram, or mattermost, or or or...)

What if they do see the difference and don't see the value in it? This is worth considering.

> where I can post images/videos inline, use proper markup etc

I don't want someone else putting inline videos or markup into my feed. In IRC people post links, most of which I happily ignore at very low cost because they're not important to anything.

> I don't want someone else putting inline videos or markup into my feed.

That is of course your personal choice, no arguing with it. I'm thinking of projects where communicating with/about videos and images is an integral part of the work. Think image processing for example. In that context a message of the kind "Hey, I tried this new method, look what I got as a result [image]" can make tons of sense.

If you don't need images, you don't have to use them. If the person on the other end of the chat insists on sending them anyway, why are you talking to them? :P

So maybe the issue is just that this sort of features should really be enabled client-side. Which you could do fine with an intelligent IRC client.

If they don’t see the value but everyone else dies then they are an outlier.

That’s absolutely ok, as long as they understand that and that at some point the value is in network effects too

The problem with IRC is that it's technically capable of being so much more than what people think it is but it's actually a real hurdle to set up and nobody is very good at it, plus the clients are stuck in the past. The right way to use IRC is to SSH into a screen/tmux session on a remote server that's always up and running; in theory it should be fully possible to send any files (images, videos etc) over DCC and use terminal plugins to display them but no clients can handle this right. DCC is perfectly capable of this as IRC piracy has been a thing for years and those files are much larger. The trouble is that FOSS is so often made by ascetics for ascetics and so most clients won't help you with any of this and people sniff at you if you use one that does.

So, how do I teach the non-technical users with whom I need to communicate to use IRC, SSH, TMUX, and and get the right things on their system?

We'd likely still need a client wrapper on top of it all.

I didn't say you should; rather, my point is that the problems with IRC mostly happen at the client level rather than the protocol level. Of course, it is also hard to ensure that a dominant client vendor does not start trying to add backwards-incompatible changes to the protocol. This has already happened once, and it's why the character U+0001 is now responsible for /me.

I think ideally such a client could be implemented as a plugin to an extensible terminal emulator, which might help to keep the project small and prevent Jabberification.

Something like Quassel had most of this functionality more than 5 years ago, while looking at least as good as Slack. I haven't used it in a long time but I'm pretty sure the setup was simple (not one click, but certainly easier than tmux, etc). It's a Qt app, so might be a better fit for non-technical users.

>post images/videos inline

There are quite a few IRC clients that do this automatically, fwiw.

This comment is on the money.

"..just plain refuse (are unable?) to even see the difference between a chat like slack. ...the user experience will be a different one."

Underlying this is (unusually) a way some technical people think, and the way most bureaucracies think. Bureaucracies will often "checklist" requirements, see that it does all the things "users have identified as important," use cases they think these apply to and go on that information alone. They only consider stuff that is tangible & legible.

By that checklist method email, whatsapp, Twitter, slack are IRC and such are essentially the same. Some may tick a.minor box that the other does not, but basically they all get messages from A to B (sometimes to B, C & D).

It's even worse in this case, because slack is social software and the conventions people form as users are very impactful on the UX. This compounds differences.

> But you can just send images by mail!" they shout.

When Dropbox was originally announced in a "Show HN" someone said:

   You can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem.

I don't like Slack not because it is slick and nice, but because it breaks my productivity. People think they're more productive, but they're not. They just chat. The great thing about email is that it is asynchronous.

I don't see anything conductive to actual work that slack has but IRC lacks. the software industries and choices of tools such as chat clients are fashion-driven and most people will be hard pressed to provide a reason why they prefer slack or discord or whatever the newest shiny toy is other than "it's popular". They're popular, in turn, because their owners have marketing budgets, and decentralized, superior alternatives don't, because they are not commercial products. Just accept that any choice of tools or technologies is typically at least 95% irrational and dictated by marketing, not by rational reasons or calculations of risks and benefits. It used to be that companies would never risk third parties getting hold of confidential internal communications, nobody cares anymore though.

“Sync’d read-state across multiple devices” is what sold me on Slack years ago. I had been trying to simulate it for a long time in IRC using various bouncers, but it never worked very well and was hard to set up for non-technical people at work.

I use irccloud for persistence in IRC, but it's not as good as slack overall.

Work had a private irc server that required all sorts of client certificates to join, forget non-technical people -- it wasn't very good for technical people either!

Try IRCCloud.

Which is a centralized, proprietary, web-based client. All three of which HN loves to hate Slack for.

It does have a really easy way to extract your conversations as a log file though. An OSS version of irccloud you could just "apt-get install blahblah" with may have stemmed the rise of slack, at least in companies.

I expect this niche will be filled by Matrix in the near future. Host a Matrix homeserver + Riot.im web UI, then employees can use Riot mobile apps and any Matrix-supporting client.

For the record, I don't like Slack very much. I just disagree that IRC or IRCCloud are acceptable alternatives.

IRCCloud was is its infancy when Slack came on the scene. If it had existed back then, maybe we wouldn’t have switched? I don’t know, but it’s way too late now. (I have never used it, and am just assuming the read state sync works as well as Slack, which may be a big assumption.)

Ease of use is a very important feature, extremely conductive to actual work. Do not downplay that.

> Slack, like so many others before them, pretend to care about interoperability, opening up just so slightly, so that they can lure in people with the promise of "openness", before eventually closing the gate once they've achieved sufficient size and lock-in.

On spot. People are lured in by hype and forget the long-term consequences. Always chose “open” by design, never by charity.

Doing the reforge course this was something that really stuck out for me. These tech platforms promise the world then slowly cut things out or become inefficient over time to cater for enterprise clients. If you are interested read this https://medium.com/point-nine-news/the-lifecycle-of-lead-gen...

I'd be interested to know how widely used these gateways are, since the conventional wisdom on HN is so frequently "vote with your wallet/feet/personal data".

As they say: Use it or lose it.

It's disabled by default. So enabling it requires effort. Then again, Slack didn't advertise those gateways.

It's designed with termination in mind.

Well, "... is designed with termination in mind" is an assumption, it certainly sounds designed to reduce adoption/use of it.

it stops being an assumption once the termination actually happens

No, it's still an assumption - the outcome perhaps is what a person expects will happen, however that doesn't then validate a past assumption - it does validate their past belief/prediction/expectation though.

It was an assumption before. Now it's a fact.

No it's not. You're conflating "it was terminated" with "it was designed with termination in mind". It's a fact that it was terminated, true, but this doesn't necessarily mean that it was designed with termination in mind. For all we know, it may have been designed with every intention of continuing IRC/XMPP support until yesterday when an executive decision suddenly said otherwise. Now, I don't believe that, but that doesn't matter: the fact that it was terminated is not the fact that it was designed with termination in mind.

If you believe so...

As a user, I was very disappointed to see that the gateways must be enabled by the project owner, not by the users themselves. In the end none of the Slack groups I've participated in allowed me to connect via IRC/XMPP.

Pretty sure enabling these by default would lead to a moderation nightmare in many groups.

Slack is an in-company chat product (their slogan is literally “where work happens” [1]) and it was never intended for public groups, which is why all invite automation tools for Slack are third-party. Slack doesn’t want you to use their product as a public chatroom and they try really hard to make that as unattractive as possible.

Given that, “moderation nightmare” is not really a concern for the target audience since if your company needs moderation in its work chat, you have much bigger problems.

[1] https://slack.com/

I don't see how. You would still need to authenticate with that group, so it wouldn't automatically allow anonymous participants from the Internets.

I can't answer the broader question, but I did attempt to use the XMPP gateway for a little while. Many features were implemented in ways that made them hard or impossible to follow when viewed via XMPP (threading was a big one), and there were a fair number of bugs. It very much felt like a tacked-on feature as opposed to something they would have expected to be used in a meaningful way.

The number of people who used slack because of the XMPP or IRC gateway is probably miniscule. If they accounted for a significant percentages of users, they wouldn't have shut it off.

Well, they did that the moment non-tech people started pushing for slack, and the decisions to adopt this was no longer in the techies hands.

The company I currently work for was very hesitant of adopting it, and they only did the moment our sales people started asking for it. And as a productivity tool it's great, but there is obviously a lock-in.

> One of the sad things that has come out of Slack's meteoric rise to success, has been how many free and open source projects have jumped over to using it (after previously using IRC or XMPP). In so doing, they have closed off their discussions from search engines and they prevent people from accessing their past archives.

Additionally the traditional mailing lists are full of "please can I have an invite to the Slack workspace" spam

It's not even that discussions have been lost from search engines, actual slack users are loosing massive amounts of history. If you a free/OSS project then you likely have little budget so you're stuck using hte free tier of Slack, which means users can only see the last 10,000 messages. We're loosing vast swathes of our history/discussion/media.

This is the main reason why my team switched to use self-hosted Mattermost. Unlimited message history is important for us, but not worth what Slack would cost when something like Mattermost is available. If you're a tech team with people who know Linux, I don't understand why you would choose Slack over something like Mattermost. If you're a small business without a tech team, more understandable.

Some nice folks I know recently started http://relay-chat.com/ which is a hosted version of MatterMost. It allows both private instances as well as creating a team at http://open.relay-chat.com

I am more concerned about Mattermost long term future than Slack. If/when slack gets obsoloted and abandonned for the next big thing then what of Mattermost ? Will it have enough developpers's mindshare to ensure its existence considering if slack is gone then there's no need to provide an alternative ?

I suppose it'd be better to build a slack clone based on xmpp.

I'm not so concerned. I think the only thing that would kill Slack is financial factors (financing if it turns out people don't want to pay for it anymore) or bureaucratic factors (if it gets acquired and then mired in corporate stupidity). I think Slack did the favour of proving to the world that people wanted something more than IRC or Skype.

If Slack dies for any of the above reasons, that won't cause people's need for a solution to disappear. I imagine Mattermost would survive just fine. If Mattermost dies, it will be because something came along that's better, similar to how I started out with ICQ, then jumped to MSN Messenger, and now I'm on Whatsapp, WeChat, Kakao Talk, Slack, and Mattermost. Same for Slack. If Slack dies because of better competition, perhaps we'll shift to that away from Mattermost. Who knows?

Gah, how is it possible that the number of chat clients I use keeps growing?

edit: typo

Mattermost is open and self hosted so if development stops it'll just continue to exist in an unchanging state. If people start communicating in another way, their Mattermost history will still be available and searchable.

How did the transition go? We're seriously considering on our end, and trying to anticipate any friction points that might occur.

Any caveats, gotchas or hidden complexities to be aware of?

Honestly, it was so smooth. Deleting old unnecessary channels seems impossible, but whatever. Have all of our chat history migrated over, no complaints. One team member missed the old Slack colour scheme, but he found a Slack skin for Mattermost that makes it look the same for him.

Have you tried their Zoom voice / screensharing plugin? If so, how well does it work?

If you are asking about Slack's Zoom plugin, I used it at a previous job, and it's pretty good. (We were a small team in Sunnyvale, CA, the bulk of the team was in Phoenix, some in Seattle)

I meant Mattermost - is the Slack one representative, i.e. it's the same client software behind a thin shim layer? Does it work as well as Hangout in terms of voice / image quality and stability? Can people click the screen and the presenter sees where they clicked?

Have not. We don't do much screen sharing among our own team, and external screen sharing is done using other tools. Interested in other people's opinions about it though.

How do I interact with Mattermost in Emacs?

So would there be a use-case for a combined bot+app that you can connect some storage to (S3, FTP) which archives all channel message history in a searchable form? It could make it visible to search engines, searchable by humans, linkable to people outside of slack, and shouldn't take up very much storage space.

Should be quite trivial to build also, and cheap enough to run as a bit of charity if projects pay for their own storage.

For open source developers logs of private 1:1 discussions are also highly valuable, so this would only be a bandaid.

The last company I worked for used small channels for this issue instead of going 1:1, which was more or less reserved for private talk

Gotta admit, as a workaround for the deficiency of "doesn't have local client logging", that one's really funny.

Local client logging doesn't solve all problems (though yes, i still want to be able to grep text files if I choose).

The two I regularly encounter (which shared storage fixes) is either moving to a different device (or trying to remember which ones have which bits of history on) and also integrating new team members.

The latter is especially important if you're doing anything technical/support related; if you've had 2 days of discussions and want to add someone else in, they need the history, not for you to try and cherry pick the important bits of the last few hours to then fail to get them upto speed.

This would be quite the workaround though, completely evading the root of the problem (slack).

It's trivial to write such a thing, but why would Slack allow that application in their apps?

It would be useless for private organisations - the entire purpose is to make ephemeral chat publicly available to search engines.

Slack might cut it off, but they gain nothing by doing it.

Several slack groups already do this.

That's why I use Discord, the free tier has _unlimited_ history. The client itself is lightweight, and it's an incremental improvement on IRC in many other areas, as you would expect. Still using IRC of course :)

Discord is an Electron app, so while it's not as bad as Slack, it's still hardly what I'd call lightweight, especially in comparison to IRC/XMPP clients.

There's a lot to like in Discord, and it rapidly became the go to client for all my gaming related friends and activities, but it suffers from the same root pitfalls that Slack always has. It will inevitably run out of VC money (or whatever they're spending now) at some point and start wanting to actually turn a profit.

I imagine this problem would be remedied by an acquisition.. or at least masked... Twitch (Amazon) seems a likely candidate, considering it's usage by Twitch users, and also the fact that Amazon doesn't really have skin in the game currently in the chat market (do they?), and could use a product like Discord in their ecosystem.

Some time ago, Twitch bought Curse, probably for the Curse App that already does voice and text chat. Also viewing streams and mod management for a handful of games.

>the free tier has _unlimited_ history.

I sure do hope this is sarcasm. Surely you do know this can go away at any time.

Sorry it was not sarcasm. You are right tho, when that happen I'll probably go back to IRC.

The problem with better chat is that it's better, so you spend more time on it.

If you're a free/OSS project and have set up a non-profit, Slack will upgrade you to unlimited messages for free. I know because I'm in such a slack channel (lichess.org).

The history isn't searchable, but the owners of the Slack can export the complete public history at any time. Here is an export that I did when we moved Hyperledger to Rocket.Chat: https://github.com/hyperledger/slack-archive

I see the hosted version is down, though.

Key word: public history. Most of my interesting history is in private chats.

Exactly! As pointed out in the article: "Slack's business model is to record everything said in a workspace and then to sell you access to their record of your conversations."

Slack recognizes, unfortunately before most of it's customers, that the history is one of the most important assets of a company -- it is the shared institutional knowledge, the thousands of hard-won lessons of all the things that can go wrong that are now fixed, and how they were fixed. This institutional knowledge is not only in the heads of the workers, but also in the papers, and many would need, or at least benefit from, a lookup of the details to re-use that knowledge.

This institutional knowledge is a key competitive advantage of almost every company.

This business model of capturing it and rent-seeking on selling it back to them is a devil's bargain.

"Here's this really slick UI for free, only costs a bit later... nevermind that we'll own the soul of your company and you'll need to pay us tribute in perpetuity..."

The one slack I am in has had some discussion of limiting history further than the free limits.

It turns out that people don't necessarily want lots of records of everything everywhere.

you can use https://gitter.im/ , it's free for OSS/free communities

Just a heads up. If you suddenly feel that IRC is too feature free or outdated for your needs, have some courtesy and consider a modern, federated and open solution instead.



Let's imagine I'm on a small open source project using slack. We don't want to host anything. Which of the slack alternatives is the easiest dropping?

https://gitter.im/ was acquired by GitLab and thus likely to remain for quite a while. Also, it might even suit the needs of such a project better than Slack, as apparently it's aimed more at communities rather than teams, but I'm not sure what that means in practice.

… and it's open-source (https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitter/webapp/).


Register matrix.org accounts there. There's a web client, desktop clients and mobile clients (called Riot.im). It's open source and federated. And, there are IRC bridges!

There are plenty of public matrix servers, most notably matrix.org hosted by the matrix developers. There is also a small list here: https://www.hello-matrix.net/public_servers.php

You don't have to host your own server.

There is a large list of public XMPP servers one can register on ( https://list.jabber.at/ & https://xmpp.net/directory.php )

https://movim.eu/ is another option (has a fancy web client, android & linux client and of course supports any XMPP client)

http://open.relay-chat.com is hosted MatterMost offered for free to open-source projects.

Also, for those still using IRC, and needing an easy way to get others on it: IrcCloud is an excellent service with a mobile client lightyears beyond any other.

I believe one of the problems there is an inaccessibility problem. Atleast for the mailing list.

Most mailing list archives lack fulltext search and a modern looking design (I'm not even asking for an SPA or anything JS, just a tiny bit of CSS could make a lot of difference).

It's also not as easy to onboard, integrate and host mailing lists.

Ideally a mailing list could be hosted with a few button clicks, people could join a mailing list like they join newsletters (instead of having to send an email to the mailing list application with some command in it) and people should be able to anonymously send emails.

Plus points if you can, optionally, manage emails like github issues and properly keep track of bug reports.

I'm not a big fan of mailing lists either, for the reasons you describe

What I do dislike though is, as Slack is invite only (the software is designed for "Teams" in workplaces, not public forums) you have to explicitly request access from the admins and this is often via the mailing lists.

The invite-only nature of slack is probably why I never spend any serious amount of time in any slack, though some other factors may play a role too considering I quite enjoy Discord (OSS discords never seem to replace any discussion board, only supplement it, plus discord has unlimited search)

Services like gmane actually provide a email list to NNTP gateway that allow for searches and easy browsing.

I rarely see a big textbox on the top of the main page of any mailing list archive that says "Fulltext search" (and isn't totally crap). "NNTP Gateway" doesn't sound encouraging in that it is explained and available for the layperson to easily employ as search tool.

I'm actually of the opinion that it would have been better to have a NNTP server to host various newsgroups instead of having various mailing lists. This would have made it much easier to view previous messages posted to the group and would have made it much easier to browse by those who don't participate.

The disadvantage is that it would require one to create an account on another server instead of just using one's existing email account for communication.

As for explaining and availability, I believe the vast majority of people would use search engine to figure out what steps are involved once something like that is mentioned.

This. A thousand times this.

I think this is pretty silly. Anyone that has actually used Slack on their team - especially if they've built integrations - will know otherwise.

It is unbelievably painful to build integrations that cater to the regular client (users want forms, buttons, dropdowns, etc) that have clean fallbacks for text-only clients (at best 1% of your users). The real reason they're dropping support is because it will make it easier for developers to build in their ecosystem. That's it.

That said, we shouldn't let Slack off easy - there are many basic issues that seem to plague Slack and Slack alone (ex. I can't believe this is an issue, but it seems nearly every message I try to send through iOS rich notifications fails to send). We should demand better, but an IRC or XMPP gateway is not the fight to pick.

P.S. If you're in high school, you should join our relatively active Slack community at https://slack.hackclub.com - started as an IRC community and switched when our members started demanding a decent mobile client.

What's so difficult about providing a link to the slack client when the feature is incompatible with IRC? 99% of the messages are text and images anyway.

Sorry, I really don't see the "bait and switch" here. IRC/XMPP gateways were never a selling point of Slack. Bots were always supposed to use the proprietary WebSocket/HTTP APIs, and in all the companies I've worked in that use Slack, not a single person used the IRC or XMPP gateway.

Open-source project communities should not be using Slack, if for no reason other than the 10k message limit and the fact that it's annoying to be present in multiple Slacks. I prefer IRC or Gitter for those communities, as they're better designed around the flow of "drop in, drop out" than Slack.

So I'm a mid-level manager at a company with a few hundred developers.

The more developers you hire, the higher the chance you'll start collecting people with obscure (but usually reasonably easy to satisfy) tool preferences. You know, the guy who changes his IDE to emacs key bindings, the guy who does all his e-mail using mutt when everyone else uses gmail, the girl who uses a Dvorak keyboard layout, the guy who insists he works best on a 1024x768 screen, and so on. Having tried a variety of industry tools and thought about about how you work best is usually a good sign[1].

Their favourite tools aren't my favourite tools, but they work for me so if they're not happy, I'm not happy.

The bait and switch is we adopted a tool that would keep IRC users happy, and it dropped IRC support.

[1] Although I keep my settings conservative, as it's hard for others to pair program or assist you with problems if they can't operate your computer

The beauty of choice is that you and I can have different favorites - so long as we can get our work done, who cares?


(thanks to http://highscalability.com/blog/2018/3/16/stuff-the-internet... for finding this comment)

The only good thing I've ever heard of Slack is that you can avoid the bloated client and use IRC instead.

Probably a great way to reduce friction when introduced.

> can


The author I think is confused about the meaning of Slack's "emoji reactions". They are "badges" that can be applied to messages by any one who is in the channel the message was sent. Discord also has this feature.

At any rate, that doesn't change the fact that it probably could have been implemented in XMPP.

As one of /those/ people still using IRC, I would personally have been totally fine continuing to use the IRC gateway without these features.

My company switched to a free slack account a couple years ago, from our own IRC server. The primary reason for the change was to get something a bit richer in abilities, and emoji reactions is something we make extensive use of. Just saying there are people out there that find these sorts of "XMPP breaking" features not only useful, but mission critical.

Would have been useful if their announcement included some of their data for reaching the conclusion, like "95% of channels use emoji reactions in more than 5% of their messages". The announcement, as it was, didn't read very well to me.

How do you use emoji reactions in a mission-critical way?

Someone says 'about to push this potentially breaking change to a shared resource, is that ok?'. Then everyone else posts a :thumbsup:

Obviously, this could be done differently. But it's easy to do it like this and come to depend on it.

While that use case is certainly an example of a convenience, I don’t think it passes the “mission critical” bar.

I can’t think of any way that emoji reactions would be mission critical unless they are part of an API that can be used for automated execution of tasks. But maybe that sort of thing does exist?

And is that an acceptable paper trail? If you break something can you show your bosses "look, Jack thumbs-upped me on Slack!"

It is a perfectly adequate paper trail. It's much easier to check in a postmortem than shouting something across the desk. Like code review, because you know your approval will be recorded irrevocably, you just think it through that little bit extra before approving.

Well, you can undo your own reactions, so not 'irrevocably'.

We typically do something similar in Hipchat - "Hey, I'm about to push to prod, any objections?" "No, go for it."

This is what I don't get; for someone wanting to use an irc client ":thumbs-up:" is as least as good as the actual graphic. Nothing is lost. And that goes for all the built-in emojis in slack.

Now if it was :4677: it'd be a different story - without some support it'd be hard to understand the constant identifiers.


We use it for an on the spot estimation outside of our normal grooming sessions.

I have to admit, this is the first time in my life I've ever read that someone (a company, no less) switched from one software product to another because the one they switched to had emojis. I somehow feel my life is more complete, like I checked something off my bucket list. Thanks!

Author here. Yes I was confused about "emoji reactions", thanks for explaining.

I've updated the article to clarify.

I agree, the author complains about something they actually do not understand. I'm sure many people will agree with the author, I'm not sure I do. If Slack changes something or does something that I don't agree with, I will find another solution. If it changes in a way that affects the workplace, we will find another solution. This is why other similar systems exist like Mattermost.

EDIT> Thanks for the downvote! Always fun when disagreeing with the echo chamber causes a loss in Internet points.

I'm trying to solve this walled garden problem by building a free native desktop client for Slack, Skype, XMPP, Twitter etc.

It doesn't have the 10 000 messages limit, it's very light (~100 KB) and fast:


I recently started working on it full-time, so I expect a stable release to be out this month.

I will always cheer on someone building something cool, but here's the problem I have: Everyone wants to build an open source alternative, no one wants to make money. What is wrong with making money? Money is great -- it lets you buy clothes, food, shelter, water, and even a night out on the town or two. We need to be able to make money on software again, not just have user data be the product. This is partly to blame on the FOSS zealots. Sure they say it's "just fine" to make money on your software, but they never seemed to offer a method that is based in reality.


I 100% agree with you. I want this product to make money so that I can devote my full time to it.

The basic functionality will always be free without ads and tracking. But there will also be a very affordable ($1-2/mo) premium plan. I haven't yet decided what it's going to have. Most likely an ability to add more than 5 accounts or multiple accounts on the same platform (e.g. 3 Slack profiles).

It's perfectly fine to make money, nobody argues that. The point is that Open Source and making money don't contradict each other.


- Conversations, the Android XMPP client, is GPL and sold on Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.siacs.conve... - There is also a paid hosted XMPP service on conversations.im.

- I have a paid+OSS app for amateur radio geolocation on Google Play myself. You can download the APK from the homepage or just directly buy it for some bucks.

- X-Chat, the OSS IRC client has a paid Windows version: http://xchat.org/windows/

You could OSS your app under whatever license you want, and still provide paid builds for any platform you want.

Don’t price your service so low! Anything below $5/mo gives the perception of having little value to offer. Plus you’re gonna lose a fat percentage to credit card processing.

To avoid credit card fees I was thinking about $12-24/year.

I don't want to charge a lot for a chat client, but these prices are not final. I know that charging too little is a mistake.

Open source and making money can be orthogonal

Well he didn't say he wasn't going to earn money from the project, just that the client is free. There are many ways to monetize something and the benefits of starting with free is that you get biggest growth and then you can find your "whales" and learn how to profit from them.

It doesn't seem like the parent wants to build an open source alternative. I remember reading about it over half a year ago (back then it was supposedly written in Go rather than C if I remember correctly) where there was also promise of open sourcing it.. His website also seems to indicate he now wants to go the route of SublimeText, so the open source promise should probably be interpreted as "I'll release the source code after I abandon the project, whether it takes one or ten years"..

FYI, I have nothing against closed source projects, but every discussion about eul.im seems to include the promise of open sourcing the project, which I'm sure is a great marketing ploy.

> I'm trying to solve this walled garden problem

By building a closed-source client?

Cool project; it's really impressive and I'd love to use once it gets stable, but don't you think your claim is a bit incompatible with your method?

It's going to be open-sourced at some point, just not now.

What I meant is I'm building an alternative client that gives people a lot more freedom. For example, you can use XMPP as your primary messenger, and still communicate with your teammates via Slack.

You can also have access to all your history and a much, much better instant search.

In the future, an IRC/XMPP gateway will be built in as well.

Why not now?

Opening a project early to contributors can end in mixed milestones, and the project may never archieve an "stable" status.

I might not be using the best words, so I'll give examples: Dolphin, the GameCube/Wii emulator did not release it's source code until the program's structure was mature enough to start adding thirth party code without disrupting the project's core codebase.

The premise is cool indeed, but are you really going to solve "this walled garden problem" with a closed-source application?

Looks VERY promising! I wanted the Linux alpha but doesn't seem like it's there yet :(

I'll be following this for sure <3

Thanks! Linux beta will be out this month. Right now I'm working on fixing bugs and crashes and implementing missing crucial features.

Wrapping up the Linux GUI bit will only take a couple of days.

Congratulations, we really need leaner IMs and from what I see it looks great!

If it supports some important features like file uploading, pinning and seeing pinned threads, etc. to reach Slack feature parity I'll surely take a shot.

Are you using QT for cross-platform compatibility or some other toolkit?

If I was using Qt, it'd be at least 25 MB, not 100 KB :)

It's all native.

Pinning is supported, just temporarily disabled. File support is not great right now. Only inline images are supported.

But the goal is of course to have full feature parity and more, so follow the development :)

A lot is going to be done by the end of March.

> If I was using Qt, it'd be at least 25 MB, not 100 KB :)

Not on Ubuntu/Arch/etc... :)

Well, Qt would still take up that space. It's just that on those platforms it's likely installed elsewhere and used by enough other things that it's closer to the "general userland size" category than it is to any one "specific application size".

Of course, that's what I meant, unlike at least as many copies of Chromium as electron apps.

Can you build it for all the 4 architectures supported by Windows (x86/x64/arm/arm64)? As it's not open source, recompilation cannot be done.

It's x86 right now, so it should run on x64. Is it possible to compile WinAPI apps for arm?

Yeah it is.

Looks cool, but do you have any intention on supporting macOS Sierra (or earlier versions)?

> You have macOS 10.12.6. The application requires macOS 10.13 or later.

The macOS bundle is not set up correctly right now, that's why it doesn't work on older versions of macOS.

Run it from Terminal for now:


I'll fix this in v0.31.

eul takes forever to start first time. maybe you should tell user in advance. I thought it couldn't start at all.

Yeah, it's a bug. Will be fixed soon. Shouldn't take too long unless you have a really slow connection. It downloads 300 KB of icons.

I don't know the numbers, but if there's not a lot of users/companies using these alternative protocols, it makes sense not to support them. I'd do the same thing.

The Facebook/Twitter analogy is flawed, because those are ad-supported businesses, so the company has a strong financial interest in having users on its own/primary platform, where it can deliver ads. I think that's not the case with Slack (?). But even there, I think the incentive to not support N protocols is not to get the +0.1% revenue from IRC/XMPP users, it's velocity/simplicity in product development, which is worth more money in the long term.

Disclaimer: I worked for FB previously, on Workplace, which is a direct competitor to Slack.

I think it's even worse than "supporting" it, it was breaking their UX if certain users didn't have certain features (namely threads).

Disclaimer: I hate threads in slack

> Disclaimer: I hate threads in slack

When you already have too many channels, and then they give you the ability to have too many threads.

I feel like they do a worse job at the supposed value add of being able to archive and later refer to a topic of conversation than channels simply because they are so light weight and proliferate so many of them, potentially.

Plus it's really jarring to be pulled into a bunch of threads.

I think the too-many-channels problem is a symptom of the excessive walled gardening.

Slack segregates by interests and social group, and bundles that with strict gatekeeping. There is no way for people to remix that to suit their own preferences. You can only fragment existing communities more.

I would love a slack multiclient where I can put channels I care about side by side, regardless of origin, and keep the rest out of sight. Instead now everyone has their own #random and #offtopic and so on. Cruising between Slacks and Discords is like navigating a hall of mirrors. If there is disagreement, the only solution is complete schism.

Slack's use as a "community" chatbox is a mangling of its original intent to be used by teams. That's where your pain points are coming from, and some of my own (no /ignore feature, for instance).

I have some of the same issues, but I'm not part of any community slacks. I run my own consulting company, and as such, I've been invited to most of my client's slacks. So I've currently got 37 Slack workspaces going. But most of the time, I'm only concerned with the specific project channel that I'm working on for a client, and I might only be active in 2-3 projects at a time. So I'd love, like OP, to be able to just have those 3 channels front and center.

That's definitely a use case I hadn't considered.

The point is that with XMPP at least, they could add those features. They presented their case as if it couldn't be done with XMPP, which is not true.

Probably the subtext here is that they didn't feel it was worth the effort of doing double work for all their new features.

Then they could at least say so. Not making some BS excuses.

What difference would it make to anyone if they added "...and yeah, we could fix it, but we don't see it as worthwhile" to the end of the post?

Without the additional text it reads like it's the fault of XMPP/IRC.

I really recommend checking out Zulip. It's open source, and they do threading so much better than everyone else.

Making your UI so that it doesn't break is the very definition of supporting it.

The particulars of each one's business model is moot if they're all incentivized similarly (which is to lock-in users and to hoard their data).

Lockin could mean they use the service, or stronger, they use the service on the official UI (which may have ads). I think for Slack, the first type of lockin is enough (a paying user is a paying user, whether they use IRC or slack.com), whereas for FB the second type of lockin is better because only that can be monetized.

Yeah, I think this article is needlessly paranoid. I've seen no evidence that their protocol connectors pose any threat to their main business. Like you, I believe that the real problem is development velocity.

As much as I'd like to live in a world where open protocols and federated services evolve as quickly and turn out as well as proprietary solutions, that's apparently not the world I'm living in. Email, as much as I love it, is basically stagnant. IRC existed long before Slack, and if it had been truly successful, Slack would never have existed because there would not have been a market niche. And having recently written a bunch of XMPP code to talk to my vacuum [1], I was entirely underwhelmed. Whereas Slack is a product I use daily because it just works, and works well.

[1] http://github.com/wpietri/sucks

Oblique to the predictable Slack XMPP decision, but relevant to federation: Mastondon is a facinating federated social network. It addresses the identity/reputation issues without embracing fb-fascism or one-site-to-rule-them-all nonsense.


How it works Anyone can run a server of Mastodon. Each server hosts individual user accounts, the content they produce, and the content they subscribe to.

Each user account has a globally unique name (e.g. @user@example.com), consisting of the local username (@user), and the domain name of the server it is on (example.com).

Users can follow each other, regardless of where they’re hosted — when a local user follows a user from a different server, the server subscribes to that user’s updates for the first time.

There is also GNU social; which is what Mastodon is based off of. I have been thinking about hosting a server for awhile. Pretty cool stuff.

I do host my own mastodon server with a small community, the initial setup is a bit complicated but once you get it going upgrades are nice and easy (each update contains all shell commands necessary outside `git fetch` and `git checkout v{VERSION}`)

Only downside of course is that if you selfhost alone, your federated timeline will be a bit empty, I do recommend either finding a community or starting one to get a bit more activity (Mastodon is essentially geared towards a sort of "community neighborhood" decentralization, where only one in a few hundred or thousand users needs to run a server, on average)

Unfortunately ActivityPub (that powers Mastodon) has a lot of incidental complexity (including RSA signatures, JSON-LD, RDF normalizations to quads etc.)

But this is a very simple alternative, distributed "Twitter" for hackers: https://github.com/buckket/twtxt#twtxt

It seems rather easy to impersonate other users, though. Similar to how one can impersonate domains by being one letter off or something like that.

I'm not sure how battle hardened Mastodon is, obviously they don't have the resources of Twitter or Facebook. Probably easy to DDOS an individual server. However, it might be possible for other nodes to transparently cache updates.

As to spoofing, we've got to move beyond humans memorizing unicode strings or profile pictures as a means of identity validation. Its shambolic enough that twitter users constanly change their display string, obscuring the twitter handle, but even without that problem, how many people send bitcoin/ethereum to @eloon_musk?

People do the same on other platforms. I've been impersonated on a social media platform via a two letter swap.

I don't think it needs a solution, administrators of instances have to solve this, first by asking to offending instance to ban the user, mute the user and if the instance doesn't do anything about repeated abuse, mute the instance.

This will be a problem on any platform that allows users to choose their own names.

IIRC, for quite a while Slack even allowed two people in the same channel to have identical display names.

I, like many others, are starting to fall out of love with Slack. This may well be the straw that breaks the camels back.

- Resource hogging - Buggy iOS app (especially on iPhone X) - Missing accessibility features - Lack of native app

They've taken $0.75bn in funding over 10 rounds and still suffer from some _basic_ issues.


- Mentions: Many times I've tried to mention someone but Slack goes and picks the wrong person. If I'm typing `@johnd`, then it should be fairly evident that I'm trying to mention `@johndoe`; don't make me go through that UI when you should have enough info already.

- Buggy snippets: Why do I have to go through a slow UI just to paste some code, when triple-backtick should be enough?

- Triple-backtick: No code highlighting. And just try to copy its content; you'll be surprised when your clipboard looks as if passed through an `s/\n/\n\n/g` filter.

- Scroll up: Scrolling up many pages above causes some weird jumps.


Incidentally, the Discord people got all these things right.

- Terrible, unacceptable mobile performance. Often unusable over semi-reliable networks. "Connecting..."

750 million USD?

This article fusses about how big mean slack took advantage of people by providing a free service and then dropping support for a protocol. I think Twitter’s treatment of developers perpetuated a David-v-Goliath storyline in which developers inevitably get short shrift while corporations take the profits.

But this is different. Slack is a business and they’re making a business decision. I’ve never heard them imply that IRC would be a core part of their business. The vast majority of their user base has never even heard of IRC. It doesn’t make sense for them to spend money to support a feature used by 0.5% of their users.

If IRC support is so important, build a business that supports IRC and get people to pay for it.

Until then, can we stop acting like the mean boy on the playground stole our lunch?

> Slack's business model is to record everything said in a workspace and then to sell you access to their record of your conversations.

Whilst this is partially true, One of the key features enterprises need and that Slack supplies is the ability to fully export messages for transfer and compliance purposes.

One of the main differentiators between paid and unpaid slack is message retention. To my knowledge, I don't think the XMPP and IRC were used by anyone to overcome this limit but I'm pretty sure it's been done using their API.

They haven't shut of usage of their API for this purpose so I'm pretty sure that lost sales is the motivation behind this change.

The OP talks about the relevant ways Slack can implement features into their XMPP and IRC endpoints to allow new features. But this probably generates a lot of technical debt for a feature that isn't used by many people. (Also, anecdotally, I've found very few XMPP clients that actually support any of the proposed extensions).

My biggest issue with Slack is that on the free plan they store everything forever, but only allow you to access the last 10,000 messages.

I'm fine with limits, but the users should be free to delete messages beyond the limit. It's my data that I entered in and they are preenting me from deleting it which is a pretty nasty thing to do.

I suspect this will all change in May when the GDPR comes into play. The policy is clearly not compliant. They will likely either need to allow for deletion, or give users access to the data (even on free accounts).

Existing EU data protection law since the mid 90s gives people the right to get a copy of their personal data, with big players, like Facebook, supporting it for years.

I don't know if Slack has any offices or entity in the EU, but you could try making an access request today./

They take money from EU clients, in Euros, so they are bound by EU law. GDPR will tighten the net around this sort of business models.

> One of the main differentiators between paid and unpaid slack is message retention. To my knowledge, I don't think the XMPP and IRC were used by anyone to overcome this limit but I'm pretty sure it's been done using their API.

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that you don't know about any message retention facilities for IRC. irclogger and logbot do that.

OP must have little idea or has given little thought to how hard it can be to maintain on-going support for a feature a very, very tiny percentage of customers use.

As far as I know, Slack never pitched as the guys who would rescue IRC out of obscurity and into mainstream. If they did, then you could perhaps fault them for giving up too easily without serious effort.

With this attitude of the XMPP Foundation, I doubt XMPP have any future. Better question would be to ask what should be improved in XMPP so that they could implement that properly.

Why? Facebook, google, slack are not using XMPP internally for chat products, because of technical reasons. They dropped XMPP gateway for mix of technical and strategic reasons. Instead of trying to be a warrior for technical correctness, XMPP foundation should rather seek feedback and try to make sure that developers integrating with XMPP will do everything correctly as easy as possible. Otherwise, more and more projects would be dropping XMPP support.

Let me first turn this around. I actually personally tried to interact with the Slack team on how they implemented their XMPP gateway, early on. I pointed out how a relatively small missing protocol feature (server-side group chat bookmarking) was severely impacting the usability of the gateway, as it caused caused you to have to explicitly join the group chat room representing a Slack channel on every client (re)connect. In fact they violated protocol in case a client requested the list of bookmarks, causing clients to hang while connecting. It took them a year to start responding, and the problem was not fixed.

Additionally I had pointed that their statements on XMPP security were factually wrong. No useful response or changes were made.

That all said, I really like a bunch of things about Slack and have repeatedly pointed out in discussions in the XMPP community that there is a lot to be learned from Slack in terms of features (and how they work technically), UI consistency, and usability. As JC points out, this is surprisingly hard to achieve in open source projects. Even harder to pull off for a very diverse community around a set of protocols, rather than a single software product.

There are also things in Slack that I think would be a lot better if they were modelled after recent protocol proposals in XMPP. For example we are working on something called MIX, an evolution on group chat, based on Publish-Subscribe. This allows for orthogonal streams of information bound to a channel, besides just chat and presence, like merge request notifications, Twitter mentions, etc. that could be displayed in a side-bar or ticker, instead of (annoyingly) interleaved with chat messages.

I would have welcomed Slack interacting with the community, but they didn't.

Thanks for adding more context! It's hard to get that from twitter, sorry.

Facebook and Google? They use IRC internally for technical reasons. IRC doesn't fall over. Googlers internally revolted when they were told to use Hangouts internally.

XMPP works great and I've used it at several employers. There's no technical reasons to avoid it; it really is all about lock-in and corporate planning.

I've watched Ralph struggle for years against corporate asshats. It's a real tragedy that all these companies don't participate in open standards. We shouldn't have ever expected good things from Slack.

> Facebook and Google? They use IRC internally for technical reasons. IRC doesn't fall over. Googlers internally revolted when they were told to use Hangouts internally.

I was talking about implementation of Facebook messenger, or Google hangout (which does not use XMPP), not what is used internally for communication.

Also, at Facebook, messenger is most used product internally. IRC is still used, but not that much (depends on org, infra devs use IRC more than product devs). But IRC is still essential, in case of emergencies (where you don't want to use your own product, as it may be down).

They could implement what properly? According to the tweet XMPP supports this. Slack just doesn't care.

I like the attitude of telling the truth. Compare to Torvalds.

> I like the attitude of telling the truth. Compare to Torvalds.

Care to elaborate?

I just like it when people flame and insult when it's deserved. A nice contrast to the "happy world; I get triggered by everything" stuff.

So rather than actually trying to find solutions, you prefer people to yell and shout at each other and not get anything done.

Well, they can do both.

> Otherwise, more and more projects would be dropping XMPP support.

Eve Online just abandoned their own in game chat server and replaced it with ejabberd.

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