Hot Trends: Will Slack Kill Email?

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What is Slack you may ask? It’s a new messaging and digital media sharing service for coworkers and project collaborators. It’s the latest in a string of startups emerging as part of the tech industry’s assault on e-mail, a front in what might be called the New Work movement. yes… Work not York.

The set-up is pretty simple: Let’s say your group is working on a proposal to build a water fountain for the Bank of California, the first thing you’ll do is create a channel called #bankofcalifornia within the app, and invite your team members.

Throughout the workday, you and your coworkers can share files, send messages about the project, track social media and collaborate using the Slack platform. The idea is that the system will let workers collaborate in a more fluid way, chatting and sharing documents in the open instead of e-mailing back and forth.

In Slack’s mind, killing email is a good thing. Email has gotten worse over the last 10 years or so. Ten years ago, 50 to 60 percent of email was from another person, and now it’s 8 to 10 percent. The other 90 percent is from a machine — email marketing, receipts, new Twitter followers, Facebook updates, check-ins, monthly statements, blah blah blah.

Sounds cool huh? Here’s the downside – for regular people in regular corporate jobs, Slack may not fly. First, it’s hard to get everyone on a team to buy into working out in the open. Secondly, part of what people like about e-mail is having control over their communication and a venue for quiet conversations. Office work often involves politics and personalities, and conducting every interaction in public is a recipe for workplace chaos.

With that being said, Slack was started a little over a year ago by Stewart Butterfield, and is now valued at about $1.2 billion. There are about 200,000 users logging in every day, spending an average 10 hours in the app! Mr. Butterfield has quite the track record, years ago he turned a failed video game project into Flickr, the photo-sharing site acquired by Yahoo.

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