Slack at 10

How Slack brought the group chat to work
A decade under the influence.

A nice tribute to Slack by Elizabeth Lopatto on the 10th birthday of the service. Great intro:

Most enterprise software is shitty. It’s clunky and unintuitive; the user interface is an afterthought. It seems obvious that the people who make these apps (hi Concur!) know that only a few people need to be convinced to make the purchase, and user interface matters a lot less than business-critical features. The average employee might hate the app, but that doesn’t matter. They’re going to use it anyway.

That’s one reason why Slack, the workplace chat app that formally launched 10 years ago today, is so unusual. Slack was the rare piece of enterprise software that spread through word of mouth, because it was actually, you know, good.

You often hear people – by often, I mean rarely, and by people, I mean tech folks – slag on Slack these days. Such are the trappings of success. I am, of course, also biased in this regard, as GV invested in the company a decade ago and I was a board observer until it went public in 2019. But Slack truly did change the way millions and millions of people,1 from Fortune 1 companies to one person startups, work. In many ways, it's incredible that it's only ten years old.

Because so many people were using Slack in their work lives, some of its features started leaking out. For instance, Slack introduced emoji reactions — to reduce noise, people could just respond with a checkmark to show they’d read something. This spread from Slack back into consumer software. Tapbacks on iMessage feel like a response to Slack. Even Facebook, which had a like button, didn’t add other options until later. “I think we were the first to do it on a broad basis within the workplace,” Rodgers says. “We saw reactions show up everywhere within a couple years. I can remember one day opening GitHub of all things, and they had a reaction bar.”

It's both incredible how many other services copied this paradigm, but also how many still haven't – looking at you, Xitter. I mean this is so clearly a perfect use for emoji (and an even better use of custom emoji)2 and has saved so many superfluous "OK" or "Sounds Good" or "Sure" or the like messages. We must be talking about millions of hours saved sending such emails in aggregate. Maybe more.

See also: Johnny Rodgers' beautifully constructed post on the death of Glitch (which I covered the launch of some 14 years ago) and the birth of Slack.
See also, also: Building Slack, the new site set up by Rodgers and Ali Rayl, two of the original Slackers, to share learnings on and from helping to launch Slack.

1 Yes, yes, Microsoft Teams. See also: "most enterprise software is shitty".

2 I'm in a half dozen Slack groups which I suspect will never churn simply because of the extensive custom emoji collections created over many years.