Slack Channels, which the company claims will replace email
Slack sold Slack Channels as an email replacement at its first Frontiers conference taking place in San Francisco

Slack announced the beta release of Shared Channels at Frontiers, its first customer, partner and developer event taking place in San Francisco.

Shared Channels, according to the San Francisco-based company, provides organizations with a space where they can work with people both inside and outside the company.

While Slack has always provided a way of bringing outside contacts into a Slack channel on an ad hoc basis, or through individual invitations, Shared Channels takes it one step beyond. 

Goodbye To Email?

Channels enables organizations to connect a common space, with none of the organizations being able to see or access the secured internal channels belonging to the other organizations.

Slack is pitching Shared Channels as the next best thing to the launch of Slack itself:

“Say goodbye to email for work with external vendors, partners, clients and more," a blog post from the Slack team read.

Given that Slack claimed it would do away with the need for work emails when it first launched and that hasn't happened yet, it seems unlikely Channels will spell the end of email. 

Slack's Shared Channels

However, the shared space will make it easier for spontaneous communication with colleagues outside of the firewall.

It also appears to simplify the use of the principal Slack channel itself. Shared Channel works like any other channel in Slack enabling participants from both sides of the communication channel message each other, upload files, use voice and video calling as well as sending direct messages.

All this can be done from a single space. Members of shared channels don’t need to log into multiple Slack workplaces, move between email and Slack, or duplicate information when working on multiple projects.

Even better, it also works with other third-party apps. This means users can work on Dropbox documents, make calls with Zoom or check the status of a Harvest project, Harvest being the online time tracking software for professional services from Iridesco.

Frontiers News Wrap Up

Other announcements from day one included state of the company news. Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, told conference attendees it now has six million daily users and $200 million in recurring revenues. It also claims to be present in more than 100 countries, and that international users make up 55 percent of its user base.

Slack also added new localized language options in French, German and Spanish with Japanese promised for later in the year. And the product team shared the roadmap for the year ahead with improved search, interactive screen sharing and more in the works.

Slack’s Competitors in the Chat World

Shared Channels was launched a few days after Microsoft announced guest access for Microsoft Teams.

For the moment that access is limited to users with an Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) account, which equals 870 million user accounts, Microsoft claims. Microsoft plans to extend this to give access to anyone with a Microsoft Account (MSA).

As a result, Office 365 users can add people from outside their company to a team, so guests can participate in chats, join meetings, collaborate on documents.

Microsoft also announced at that point that there are currently 125,000 organizations — businesses, schools, and other entities —using Microsoft Teams in 25 languages to some extent or other.

Then there’s Atlassian’s Stride, which was also launched last week. Stride was designed to bridge the gap between group video chat, task management and other features like a meeting planner or message prioritization.

Cisco’s Spark, the centralized communications console that lets enterprises set up virtual meeting rooms at will is also rapidly developing. The company designed the tool to adapt to whatever communications tools and codecs are already on the market.

Slack is clearly up against a tough market. We'll see what announcements come out of day two.