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When Slack Won the Team Chat Market (zapier.com)
54 points by yarapavan on July 27, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

Slack "won" because, at least at the time it rose, it was a better chat app for work that had a decent experience across platforms. A user could use it on macOS, on Windows, in the browser, on Android, on iOS, and expect a very uniform experience. Very few gotchas, besides some quirks caused by the difference between what browser APIs can provide and what's expected by OS users.

I remember using HipChat and wasn't terribly impressed, but I was used to it. I then switched jobs and was asked to start using Slack. Naturally, in my head I thought "oh great, I gotta learn a whole new thing." That thought was gone by the end of my first day since virtually everything about it was better than workplace chats I've used in the past. (I don't know how HipChat is now but I'm sure it's improved since 2013).

Seriously, most chat apps at the time were pretty dogcrap. A lot of people judge it, especially today, by functionality over form. Personally, I put a somewhat stronger emphasis on form so long as the core functionality is solid. I don't really get the people who claim it's glorified IRC; yeah, guess what, most people didn't want to use IRC because they had to understand what IRC was, what IRC client to use, oops my client doesn't work on macOS, oh hey look someone from the Czech Republic is DDOSing the channel, etc. It's funny how nerds keep thinking "if only everyone was a nerd" and get disappointed when the average person doesn't want to use X nerd-thing. Like "the year of the Linux desktop", there was never going to be a "year of the IRC client". People want to open up an app and to send messages to people, and I agree with them.

These days, there's more serious competition in the arena, and that's because Slack redefined the standard.

Speaking only for myself, I'm on multiple Slack channels, some related to certain SaaS companies whose products we use, and some that are personal.

Internally, we use HipChat for our group within the company.

I much prefer HipChat over Slack.

To me, Slack is bloated, slow, and disorganized. I hate, loathe, and despise the way it tries to do what it thinks of as "threading".

HipChat is simpler and faster to use. It's easy to connect plugins and administer. It's easy to add your own custom emoji, if you really need them. And it's easy to configure it to auto-hide animated GIFs, if you don't want to see them by default.

There is nothing that Slack offers that I want. And plenty that it forces me to live with that I do not want.

Thanks for this refreshing comment. I had off and on responsible for figuring out how to do chat at my company for awhile just pre-Slack. Trying to get IRC to work the way we needed (which includes history and search) was a real pain, and the various proto-Slacks were an improvement but also noticeably less well executed than Slack when it hit the scene.

Functionality wise Hipchat has not really changed since 2014 in any way that I can think of (been using it the whole time). Much more stable though.

How is it better compared to older chat applications like AIM, MSN messenger, Yahoo messenger, or gchat?

I see it differently.

I see the classic situation of "post acquisition we serve the needs of our parent company, not necessarily the users".

I used to be on a team that used Hipchat. After they got acquired by Atlassian the story was "look we integrate with Atlassian products" which was useless to us. We wanted bug fixes and some new features. Eventually we switched to Slack because it did what we needed.

Seems a bit premature to claim that Slack "won" considering the market itself is growing and that some of their newish competitors (MS, kind of Google, perhaps even Facebook in the future) have very deep pockets.

The article makes a point that the first movers don't always win in the long term and I agree. Slack had the right user experience to make people want to use team chats, but that doesn't mean that experience won't be improved on. Instant messaging/chat apps' popularities have proven to be quite ephemeral over the years and I doubt the current generation will be different

Agreed. Unlike an operating system, or a specific hardware spec (like a CPU ISA), such team chat software if far less likely to keep you locked in. So I wouldn't be surprised in 2-3 years from now some website will proclaim "How [insert another name here] won the market".

Making such judgement now feel way too premature. It's the same as when people proclaim that Tesla won the EV market. The market is barely taking its first steps...

In the meantime everybody close shop and go home. Slack already won. :)

Slack has 8M DAU, which is probably at most 1% of the total team chat market. The whole article makes no sense.

Microsoft Teams is currently on for 125,000 companies, with a customer base of 100 million in said market. To act like they can't easily "win" or cut slack apart is crazy. This article makes no sense at all.

MSTeams still has issues: the top one being that it’s tied to Office 365 and the app won’t let you sign-in to multiple accounts. You can only join the MSTeams account associated with your Office 365 subscription - or as a limited “Guest” user of another account at their invitation - and there’s no sign this is going to change any time soon. - and of course, the user-experience for switching accounts isn’t the best either.

You mean like the free version not tied to O365 that they have already released? https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/group-chat...

Multi Accounts, sure, but that is simple and easy for them to implement.

If the projected merger of Skype for Business (fka Lync) into Teams happens as projected/announced, Teams would be in a particularly strong spot to take the lead given existing corporate reliance on SfB and the current "self-competition" between the two.

(Slack refusing to sell to Microsoft from this angle looks like the very reason why they won't "win" in the long term.)

I feel like this article would call MySpace the king circa 1990. Real Team Chat clients are in their infancy. Microsoft is still baking Teams. Slack still has bug issues. Google can't decide on a product. Discord is starting to really start to get footing in gaming circles. Slack maybe has a head start, but they haven't won anything.

http was created in 1991. MySpace came later.

August 1, 2003, to be exact.


In the beginning Tim created The Protocol and The Web.

And The Web was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of The Protocol. And the NCSA moved upon the face of the code.

And Andreessen said "Let there be a GUI" and there was a graphical browser.

And Filo and Yang saw this graphical browser and created order from chaos...

> Real Team Chat clients are in their infancy

Is there any real innovation over IRC? Beyond that, I remember using Campfire almost five years ago and it had pretty close feature parity with Slack today. This seems like a revolution in usability and branding if anything.

IRC lacks history, unless you want to run a proxy some place.

With IRC, you either run your own server or trust a server run by someone with whom you probably have no commercial relationship.

IRC clients mostly suck, for the purposes of people who are not already IRC aficionados.

File transfers are, afaicr, not ideal with IRC.

Bottom line is, IRC doesn’t just work in the way most people need.

Sure, it’s branding and usability but they’re hugely important.

As an aside, this is how you do content marketing. Really timely and topical post, and sprinkled product tid bits in without feeling like an over sell.

Slack is just another case of closed-source software getting enough market-share to compel the rest of us into its user-base.

Not exactly sure what it being closed-source has to do with it.

Wouldn't this exact scenario have played out had it been OSS?

That's the finer point that brings a lot of frustration.

For example: We have a slack channel for every support case with our business. Whenever a case is closed, we archive that channel.

Whenever a channel is archived, slackbot sends a direct message to every user in that channel so they will know it was archived. The message cannot be muted, and has the same notification authority as a direct message from a real person.

This means that when someone is closing support cases while I am not working, my phone will alarm me that I got a direct message from a slack user; something that I generally need to know about.

Slack has had an issue open regarding this for months, yet nothing has changed. If I had an open-source client, I would have fixed this problem myself as soon as I ran in to it.

Is team chat some newfangled thing, or have people just forgotten that this has always been a thing? Ten years ago Sametime and Microsoft Office Communicator had persistent chat rooms that are identical to Slack channels, and they were certainly not the first. The company I work for was founded on a persistent chat product cobbled together in the wake of a startup collapse in the first dotcom bust.

And IRC begat AIM, and AIM begat ICQ, and ICQ begat Jabber...

An IRC bot is no match for a Slack bot when it comes to simplicity and availability.

I really want to see Slack and Discord compared directly

They are super similar, but Discord is free. I can't imagine what can be said in its disfavor.

Fun fact: several months ago, Russia blocked Telegram. Telegram refused to go quietly and started hopping between numerous Amazon IPs to avoid direct IP blocking. The Russian regulators started blocking Amazon IPs en masse and severely damaged internet connectivity for weeks. Youtube slowed down to a crawl. Slack was paralyzed. Discord? Not even a hiccup.

I'm positive Youtube doesn't run on AWS.

Good point! Quick googling shows that Google’s IPs were also targeted, not only Amazon’s (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/18/russia-blocks-google-amazon-...).

Any idiot can standup ejabberd and write some user mgmt + a mediocre web interface.

We all saw how quickly folks migrated off hipchat.

This is commodity software.

It's only a matter of time until MSFT gets their shit together, ships a passable chat product, and crushes slack, having sales channels into like 90% of like all businesses.

Slack is a joke and if they were publicly traded I'd short them.

Inb4 my company's documentation is searchable chat


>Taking out a competitor is good for Slack, said Butterfield: “There’s fewer choices for people.”


Just wait until Microsoft buys Slack.

Why not Oracle or Salesforce? I think Salesforce would be a natural fit, but would love for Oracle to do it just to watch the tech community freak out.

Buying Oracle would be a welcome relief, but it's unlikely to happen. Oracle's culture is just too different from modern Microsoft to ever work.

Salesforce would be an interesting acquisition. Maybe they could merge that in with their Dynamics division, perhaps shunted under Azure.

My apologies. I meant Oracle or Salesforce acquiring Slack.

Salesforce is $100B company with over 30,000 employees. MSFT would be insane to try and absorb them.

Microsoft a decade ago would absorb. Today they'd acquire and let it run quasi-independently.

They tried, started building Teams only after they were rebuffed.

I think we all agree that Slack has been the most successful in this space. This article presents statistics for Zapier users, though, and I don't think that's going to tell you much about the market as a whole.

Won what?!?

We keep happily using Skype for Business and Lotus Sametime.

I'm afraid those charts mean nothing unless I see the Y-Axis labelled.

When they move off from using web-technologies.


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