More than eight million users log on to Slack every day, according to founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield at The Wall Street Journal's Future of Everything festival Tuesday. The company, which also counts three million paid users, has seen its numbers increase 33 percent since September. The company reportedly brings in revenue of around $300 million--and plans on getting bigger.
Now five years old, Slack is moving beyond being a searchable log for communication. If Google is a giant search engine for the world's information, Slack wants to be a "Google for the office." "What Google is doing for the web, we're trying to structure by channel," said Butterfield. "Team-first, organization-first approach to messages as opposed to individual first."
Many third parties bring their software onto Slack, in the same way they do on social media platforms like Google or Facebook. The company has about 1,500 apps in its app directory, including Google Docs, GitHub, marketing management tools, and contract development tools. As such, Butterfield said the future of Slack will be one in which work tasks increasingly integrate directly into the platform.
For example, software engineers used to perform a command in the terminal and then go into a messaging system to communicate to the team what they did. But now, an engineer can go to a Slack team channel--where there's a "high degree of visibility and the cost of communication goes down"--and simply write the code for all to see without navigating to a different webpage.
Butterfield also described how Slack is the ideal tool, given how productivity has changed over time. In the early days of the internet, you didn't have to juggle many things at once. A recruiter now, for instance, uses LinkedIn, email, tools for evaluating résumés, and tools for writing more effective job descriptions.
"As individual productivity increases, it's the handoff between people that gets more complicated," Butterfield said. "The talking to other people is the actual work." If all of that can happen in one place, the simpler our jobs will be.
While Slack continues to evolve the workplace, Butterfield said there's one thing the tool isn't aiming to do: "Our job isn't to eliminate emails. We don't get anything out of that. Email is the lowest common denominator of communication--you can guarantee everyone has an email address. Email is going to be around for a while."
Indeed--Butterfield admits he still spends up to two hours a day on email.