Photo Credit: pexels
When Slack officially launched back in 2014, it promised to change the way people work, and especially the way they communicate in the office. So it’s perhaps no big surprise, then, that both Microsoft and Facebook (via Workplace) have come up with their own Slack killers. So what’s next for Slack in its looming battle with both Facebook and Microsoft?
Facebook vs. Slack
It’s easy to root for Slack, of course. The company has become a Silicon Valley tech darling. And the founder of the company is Stewart Butterfield – someone that social media fans might recognize as the founder of the photo sharing site Flickr. Before Flickr was eventually sold to Yahoo, it was everybody’s favorite site for finding and sharing high-quality images on the web.
But it’s clear that neither Microsoft nor Facebook is going to stand by and let an upstart take over the way people communicate in the enterprise. In the same way that Microsoft has used Skype and LinkedIn to reassert its dominance in the office, it also has plans to use its Slack competitor as a way to control the way people work. And just like it has ruthlessly taken on all rivals in the social networking space, Facebook now looks like it will attempt to win market share from Slack.
Can Facebook get enterprise collaboration right?
In many ways, Workplace is not nearly as fully-featured as Slack, but it’s also going to be a lot cheaper – even after the full premium pricing kicks in during September. And, from the perspective of people who already use Facebook and Facebook Messenger to communicate, it’s going to be a lot more intuitive to use. “Facebook for the office,” OK, got it. The process of onboarding your employees is going to be simple.
Just a few years ago, it would have seemed odd for Facebook to get involved in the enterprise space. Just as Google has always struggled with social, Facebook has always struggled with the enterprise. Facebook is about emoticons, silly GIFs and photos of your lunch, right?
The changing nature of the social enterprise
But something has fundamentally changed in the way people communicate. Business communication has become a lot less formal. It now looks antiquated if your email has a greeting and a sign-off – the growing norm is just to treat email as a form of instant messaging, where things are much more informal.
And, from a functional perspective, there’s actually a lot that Facebook can offer that Slack can’t. For example, one key selling point of the Facebook Workplace integration is going to be the ability to integrate live video into the work experience.
But still… the one question on everyone’s mind is whether people want to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives. That was the reason for LinkedIn, right? It still feels slightly creepy to be friends with your boss on Facebook, and the idea of your Facebook profile becoming part of your work profile might strike some as being potentially ill-advised (if not dangerous). You probably don’t want your boss to know that you were partying until 3 a.m. the night before an important client presentation…
Size matters, especially with social networks
But as more people work outside of the office, and as the whole flexible work lifestyle becomes more ingrained, it’s clear that the way we work is going to change. It’s still unfathomable how email has stuck around as long as it has, given that most people now view email as woefully ill-equipped for the way we communicate today.
The only question, really, is how soon Facebook will emerge as the victor in its coming battle with Slack. If scale matters, then the writing is already on the wall. As of March 2017, Slack had 5 million daily active users, of which about one-quarter are paying customers. Facebook, in comparison, had nearly 2 billion daily active users. Surely it can convert just a tiny fraction of those into Workplace users. If Facebook could take out Snapchat so easily, does anyone really think that they won’t be able to take out Slack?