Slack’s $2.8 Billion Dollar Secret Sauce

by Volker Weber

Figuring out why something is successful in retrospect is like trying to describe the taste of water. It’s hard. We aren’t big on process. We prefer to just put our heads down and design stuff, iterating over and over again until something feels right. Slack was no different — there wasn’t any magic process we used — but looking back, I’ve identified a few key things that helped make it the huge success it’s become.

Interesting read. Design matters!

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Update: Two links that @elsua added in his comment:


Great article. As someone who doesn't use Slack, I've been wondering what all the fuss is about. Now I get it.

Rob McDonagh, 2015-10-01

I'm just going to say it. In my opinion. Slack is *RAP (Insert crude word here). #TISI.

If you use more than one email address - ie. You wear lots of different hats. Managing accounts across multiple Slack communities is a nightmare. Trying to remember which email and password combination works for which community. Argh.

Monitoring conversations across several communities becomes a tedious mouse click fest. Was that important conversation in "General" or "Sales" or "Clients" or "Potential sales"?

The invite method of joining a community ensures all communities are silos. They are not discoverable. Proof - I am now a member of 3 iOS Swift communities (I have since stopped joining them). It's not joined up.

How can you possibly pick out a long running conversation when there might be more than one screen of chatter between the comments that are important or interesting to you. Why can't I follow a simple conversation thread.

What I don't get is that this stuff is simple. Just take a look at Facebook. Or Yammer. Or Salesforce Chatter.

So many times I read how design "is" the product. And if you get the design right then you'll have success. Slack might be getting all the praise for it's "design" - which is cool - but really - when will people open their eyes and smell the coffee.

What's wrong? I think that Slack missed architecting the connection between data and UX. It's a really important step in systems design and I can't help but feel they skipped straight past it.


Deep breaths....... Sorry. Rant over. I feel cleansed.

Ian Bradbury, 2015-10-01

It’s been part of my workflow for over a year. It’s unparalleled for how our team uses it, but I can see how it wouldn’t be right for everyone—for example, I don’t have oodle of communities, just a number of channels.

(It also has superb search).

Ben Poole, 2015-10-02

Hi Vowe (and everyone else), very interesting conversation with lots of great points. I have been using communication and collaboration software (along with social tools) for over 15 years now and I can understand some of the pain points highlighted by Ian, as well as Ben's. Slack is not for everyone, it's not an ESN, it's a tough decision if a large enterprise would want to make use of it (Ian's point about the invite process), it's not a content repository, but more of a content aggregator, a conversation flow of multiple channels compiled together to provide a single focal point of entry for teams to communicate and collaborate on something.

That's why it's far superior to some traditional tools that pretty much behave like silos (Slack, by the way, does bridge different spaces together, right from v1!). It helps small teams get together on a common set of goals regarding projects, tasks and activities and with some pretty amazing integrations with third party apps / services.

Thomas van der Wal (@vanderwal) put together this absolutely stunning article on Slack > that's a must-read for everyone interested in what Slack is and what it is not.

I am currently using it for 6 different work projects and I quite like it. It does the job and it does it beautifully. However, does that mean it's replaced everything I used so far? Not likely, as I recently blogged about over at It just augments and amplifies plenty of the communication and collaboration I do nowadays across different teams, communities and projects. It's amazing what you can do with I.R.C. in 2015 if you add a pretty interface and lots of gaming design dynamics. But, still, it's I.R.C., not a full ESN of sorts that a medium, large business would probably make use of, unless there is a very very specific use case.

Thanks, Vowe, for the heads up on this piece! Hope that helps add further up into the conversation :)

Luis Suarez, 2015-10-02

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