back to article '$5bn for Slack?! I refuse to pay!' You don't pay – and that's its biggest problem

That thing you love so much – no, not pizza, or reruns of Game of Thrones on Netflix – wants more money from you. Workplace collaboration tool Slack is reported to be once more casting about for funding, somewhere between $150m and $300m. Unnamed sources, presumably either Slack or those same titans from Sand Hill Road lubing …

  1. Fraggle850

    Speaking as someone who knows bugger all about Slack..

    I can't see a compelling use-case for yet another asynchronous communications system. What advantage does it confer over traditional email? How does it address the problem of inbox overload? If they really want to prove it why not just start charging everyone and see how they do?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Speaking as someone who knows bugger all about Slack..

      It is not just yet another one. It is yet another one with a proprietary protocol.

      I may not like XMPP as it is often way too verbose, but it works, interoperates and is proven to run and ludicrous scales (Google hangouts/talk and f***book messenger). I really do not see why an attempt to reinvent the XMPP wheel via JSON sreaming should be valued at 1Bn.

      1. Samuel Penn

        Re: Speaking as someone who knows bugger all about Slack..

        We have an internal XMPP chat server, and some people in the company still wanted to use Slack. No idea why. Fortunately we seem to be standardising on XMPP.

        And how did GMail invent threaded conversations? GMail's conversaton threads are the most confusing email interface I've used, far worse than the threading interface that has been common on desktop based email clients since the mid 90s.

        1. billium

          Re: Speaking as someone who knows bugger all about Slack..

          I think an advantage over XMPP is file linking or transfer.

          I set up an XMPP server (ejabbered) a long time ago and the few users seem happy with it, but I'd love to add file linking or transfer.

          The Windows client (Pandion) I use is probably dated now . Do you recommend any clients?


      2. macjules

        Re: Speaking as someone who knows bugger all about Slack..

        I prefer to use Flowdock instead of Slack as I find it simpler to integrate and, after all, integration is why we use Slack, FD etc. I want a tool that enables me at a view to see who has pushed what to where on GitHub, Gitorious or BitBucket or who has updated work time spent on a Jira project and, above all else, who is actually working 'WFH' rather than Playing Fallout 4 ' WFH'.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Speaking as someone who knows bugger all about Slack..

      "What advantage does it confer over traditional email?"

      Pros: Someone else is responsible for backing up all those conversations you had.

      Cons: Someone else is responsible for backing up all those conversations you had.

      Of course, you'll know that Slack has really arrived when the bad guys put the effort in to figure out how to send phishing messages.

  2. magickmark

    "Re-runs of Game of Thrones on Netflix" I wish!! Even on Sky they only have series one as a box set!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The streaming sites have them, however.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is Slack still around?

    Our local 'Digital' guru (or Mr. Fancy Pants' as another article described these people) went on a drive to push Slack about a year or so ago. Everyone was encouraged to 'get collaborating' and we had to access it via Chrome, until a Chrome update killed it and/or we breached the 'free usage limit'.

    This is the first I've heard of it again in at least ten months . . .

  4. ben edwards

    Slack is huge in my office (50~ people). Email is relegated to things like Calendar invites and formal requests; Slack covers everything else. According to our stats, we send 2-3k messages per day - I would hate to see what that looks like as email.

    1. Dagg Silver badge

      Slack is a pain, you can't spam filter it so you get all the rubbish and cute cat pictures.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think that's one of the problems...

      your 2k-3k messages are probably smileys and "ok" and "brb" and "hold on"... it also encourages people to be verbose when they could just write one e-mail when they actually want/need something.... I think a lot of the usage will come down to company culture. If you have already IM + e-mail in an enterprise environment, not sure how Slack can position itself.....

  5. Fazal Majid

    Slack is just warmed-over IRC

    The problems with email, Slack, and every other messaging system are social and behavioral in nature. Moving to a new system, like getting a new email after changing jobs, gives a short respite but dysfunctional collaboration patterns reassert themselves quickly.

    Like IRC, texting or chat, Slack is good for throwaway exchanges, but it's not going to solve the problem of efficient work habits. That will probably take one or two generations to happen, after all people are only just starting to take a more systematic approach to handling their to-do lists withGTD et al.

  6. clocKwize

    My company also loves slack - we use email for formal bits, everything else is on slack. Much quicker to communicate and bonus cat gifs.

    Does it really matter what protocol it uses? You can hook in to it in several ways without caring..

  7. Anonymous Coward

    It's hip, it's happening, it's in the cloud!

    Our devs love Slack. In fact they've moved on from devops, to 'chatops'.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    What people are saying about Slack...

    ".... defies logic"

    "...why VCs are so excited about Slack: Why Slack is worth $1bn: it’s trying to change how we work.

    " has been absolutely brutal on my productivity"

    "’re about to already hate Slack as much as even more than you hate email."

    "...this bubble is about to pop! Don't miss your chance to invest before it's too late!"

  9. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Paris Hilton

    " has been absolutely brutal on my productivity"

    Is that something that either I or my employer should be pleased about?

    1. thames

      He seems to be saying that it doesn't really solve any of the "problems" of e-mail, because once everyone you know starts using it, you have exactly the same problem of keep up with the Slack messages as you did with keeping up with e-mail.

      The main "advantage" of Slack is that it's used by far fewer people than e-mail, so fewer people can send messages to you. That advantage disappears though once enough people use Slack. The same thing applies to any other alternative messaging system.

      The real problem isn't the method of delivery. The problem is that lowering the "cost" of communication means that you get a lot more communication. What e-mail did was give us ultra-low cost of producing messages. Basic economics says that lowering the cost of production will result in more being produced. The only way Slack will do anything about the volume of messages is if it is so hard and expensive to use that nobody wants to use it except when absolutely forced to.

      What's needed isn't another proprietary message protocol, or just tossing some "cloud" in to the mix. What's needed is to automate the "reading" of messages so that you don't have to look at them unless they really matter to you. In other words, we need software that can somehow act as an automated personal secretary who can process and "understand" the incoming messages, and then use that to give you only exactly the information you need when you need it (and wipe your chin and tell you to brush your hair, etc.).

      When that day comes, then my "virtual secretary" will contact your "virtual secretary" and they'll sort out everything between them and let us know what they've decided we ought to do. Until then though, we're stuck with sorting out the crap ourselves.

      1. fajensen

        When that day comes, then my "virtual secretary" will contact your "virtual secretary" and they'll sort out everything between them and let us know what they've decided we ought to do.

        That day is already here.

        It's just that it's not "my" or "your" "virtual secretary" it's The Man's secretary - or - rather - Taskmaster. The fulfilment centres behind Amazon & Co equips staff with trackers and runs them like robots using optimal-path algorithms. The so-called "knowledge work" is coming right up for modernisation next on the same principles (ambulance drivers, police, health care are "getting it" now).

        Whenever we encounter "digitalisation", what it really means is the down-sourcing of stupid internal bureaucracy to users by making them do the job themselves in order to get any service. This frees internal resources to invent more bureaucracy, so the escalation is geometric.

        This is why we can't have any nice things. It would give us time to think, sooner or later we would get ideas and then ... change would come. The "Sir Humpreys" almost lost control in the 1960's, it's taken them more than 50 years to unwind all of that, so of course "we" wouldn't want to risk another "reality excursion". So - busy, busy, busy ....


        Even 1990's "dumb-AI" like SpamBayes can figure out with extremely good accuracy what I consider spam or not by learning. If I had several classifiers in parallel, I could teach them to auto-sort all of my email according to importance and subject. Each filter would need one complete classifier, but, my 2016 computer is probably 1500 x faster than my 1990's ditto - so - wouldn't even notice this load.

        Hmm. Maybe one should try it.

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    "They are betting if they throw enough money at this, their dog will become not just that sector’s big dog but its only dog."

    Ahh! You mean like how MySpace completely cornered the market for social media, making it well worth Rupert's $580m, only for the world at large to demonstrate that the Internet makes it *really* easy to switch "provider". Hmmm. I'd value Slack at below zero, since it presumably costs something to run and there's bugger all hope of ever getting a return on the investment.

    1. fajensen

      .... and there's bugger all hope of ever getting a return on the investment.

      Depends. Converting just 5% of 300 million USD of "Other Peoples Money into "My Money" would yield a pretty good R.O.I. For me at least.

      I would bet that the venture vultures providing the funding charges about that in management fees. Going further into the Gray, one could also set up a side-channel providing in-sourced services like management consultancy. Maybe once could even buy Credit Default Swaps on the business's bonds (It requires that someone takes the other side of the bet - again with "Other People's MOney" - but - there is a 5-10% fee for someone to do exactly that also).

      The world demands to be fooled, of course Capitalism and Markets will cater to that need.

  11. Kimo

    Never paid for Slack?

    I paid for Slack on a set of CDs back in the late 90s. It was my go-to distro since it was designed to install the core and add on, instead of having to remove parts you don't need from Suse or the other major distros.

  12. zb42

    Mattermost, opewn-souce clone of slack

    There is an open source clone of slack called mattermost. It's seems ok, I'v spun it up and played with it for half an hour. I got no futher because the standard way of using it seems to be to use docker. I havn't had the enthusiasm to spend a day learning docker yet, I would have no idea how to fix the mattermost container if it just stopped booting, how to keep it backed up and patched.

    Slack costs hundreds of dollars a month for a couple of dozen users. The cost is high enough that getting someone to set up mattermost is a reasonable alternative.

  13. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    We use Slack at Harvard where I work

    Useless as tits on a bull.

    We'll keep using it until some other shiny object catches the pointy hair boss' attention as the "next big thing".

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a brave new world

    Long live multi-billion dollar companies with 40 employees. Long live startups who will never make a dime with market caps larger than many blue chips. Silicon valley doesn't even understand how responsible they are for the lovely Trump phenomenon.

    1. scrubber

      Re: a brave new world

      You misunderstand the new market. You no longer have a marginal cost (aws apart) so once you cover fixed costs each sale is almost all profit. This leads to VC heads to spin with the almost infinite potential profits and share price increases, hence astronomical valuations. At some point economics comes back into play and you have to monetise, cf. Twitter, but the dream can be ridden on the backs of unicorn hunters for a good while.

  15. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Slack users are obviously

    slacking off at work.

  16. John 104

    Go ahead and monetize it. Start selling it and you'll get some to start using it. But there are other free chat platforms available that will take its place. Rocket Chat comes to mind. Or you could just use Skype. Its free.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Billion dollar valuation just because...

    They've concocted yet another brilliant get out of paying TAX anywhere scheme... Just like Facebag & googhoul!

  18. patrickstar

    I thought this was about Slackware...

    Hopefully $5bn is the amount it takes for Volkerding to switch to systemd.

  19. laurence brothers

    value and valuation

    It's really wonderful what you can do with the hello-world of network programming, a text chat server. The core Slack functionality has only been implemented about a million times in the last 30 years. I guess that means it's ripe for a Yahoo! purchase!

    Seriously, it's a nice, slick chat server. One of the best ever implemented. And it understands Youtube and Vine links! And and-- well anyway, there's got to be at least 100,000 lines of code in there. Probably a good four or five engineers responsible, not to mention a designer. Definitely worth $5 billion.

  20. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Slack. Because pouring money into Twitter is too mainstream.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Work has mandated Slack as the IM tool for the tech side of the business...

    I work for a large multinational business. They've mandated that Slack will now be used for IM within the tech portion of the business, and eventually spread across other areas of the business.

    Various developers within the business have discovered the "bots" functionality, and now, in our team's chatroom, actual human conversation gets flooded out by various automated monitoring systems.

    As with all things, slack is good for some stuff, but not for others. The idea that everything should be spewed forth to everyone instantaneously, and that one should have to mentally scroll back through a chat log and play it back in one's head to see what's been dealt with is not one of them.

    1. fajensen

      Re: Work has mandated Slack as the IM tool for the tech side of the business...

      The idea that everything should be spewed forth to everyone instantaneously, and that one should have to mentally scroll back through a chat log and play it back in one's head to see what's been dealt with is not one of them.

      It's a GREAT idea. Because, NOW you(r) business will urgently need an(other) intelligent tool to sort the deluge of crap into actionable information.

      Don't think "stupid" or "broken", think "how can I USE this to bleed the bastards?".

  22. Mikel

    Pay? That's so Ballmerish

    "In my day - and we were quite successful - we didn't pay. We adopted their USP features into our own products, poisoned our OS so their app wouldn't reliably run, and stole their users. Paying is for losers." - Bill

  23. Psy-Q

    The problem is open source?

    The author suffers from some convoluted misunderstanding of open source/free software that is hard to untangle. Is he saying that Slack is open source? It isn't. Is he saying FOSS developers are cheapskates? That's hard to quantify, some teams of two really just can't afford to pay for any services through no fault of their own, some others spend their own money to provide services for thousands or millions of members of the community (Diaspora, Gitlab, etc.). Is he saying Slack is mostly used by FOSS developers? Where are those numbers to back that up? Or is he saying "having a free version of a service is like being open source"? In that case, reading and understanding an introduction to FOSS might be in order.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So slackers really can get rich?

    That's not what they told me at school...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So slackers really can get rich?

      They tell that to *everyone* at school. Keeps competition in check.

  25. nijam Silver badge

    > Nobody likes email – well, not since the 1990s, anyway

    Maybe not, but it's still better than all the things that have "replaced" it.

  26. Naselus

    Surplus capital has to go somewhere

    Unicorn valuations have nothing to do with the company itself beyond the fact that it's in 'tech'. Tech is presently where surplus capital gets dumped.

    Basically, we have Unicorns because everyone outside the C-suite hasn't had a serious pay rise in 20 years. This means there's tons of floating capital desperately seeking a return. The low-risk returns are mostly already taken, but there's still a lot of cash left over looking for someone to borrow it. Tech startups meanwhile desperately want to borrow lots of money, because they don't care about building a profitable company - they just want to get known enough to be sold to Google.

    Basically, Slack or Uber's massive 'on paper' valuations are a result of no-one outside the C-suite has had a proper pay rise in 25 years (and you can see the same things happening in the 1880s and 1920s, too).

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This rambling article did nothing to inform me.

    What exactly was the point?

    That VCs sometimes invest out greed and emotion/

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If Slack is in such demand why after my appraisal do I not get a payrise?

    Ive been slack for over a decade apparently.

  29. Ben Bonsall

    Wave was cool. I miss it.

  30. Seajay#

    The problem is not email

    The problem is people.

    It doesn't really matter on what medium messages arrive, it's all still the same old drivel. The only reason that new platforms seem to have an advantage is that they have fewer other people on them initially.

  31. Matt 75

    maybe if it wasn't so bloody pricey they might get more people on the paid plans??

    seriously $6.67/£4.65 a month for the standard plan, doubling to $12.50/£8.72 for the 'plus' plan - that's more expensive than Office 365 (£3.10/£7.00/£7.80)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem an old fart like me has is not only all the bloody noise generated by bot fiddling devs but those who, upon the demise of something critical, spout "but it was on the (insert your chat messenger crap name here) so everyone must have seen it". The youth of today, I weep.

  33. wayward4now

    They robbed Slackware's handle

    ...and pissed me off. Scruum, the twits..

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