Slack to play nice with others, like Atlassian's hip(chat) kids

Investors toss in more cash to encourage third-party apps

“Team messaging” company Slack has decided it's time to play nice with others by encouraging developers to pipe their applications into the company's chat app.

Slack's investors have found US$80 million to fund “fund both 'Slack-first' apps as well as B2B and enterprise tools that make Slack integrations a core part of their offering. Those apps will presumably join the 160 now listed in another new initiative, an app directory listing code that hooks into Slack.

The company's also released a new “framework for Slack development called Botkit” that provides the kind of plumbing code it's just nicer to have on hand rather than having to do oneself.

Slack's not alone in thinking this way: In early November, Atlassian announced HipChat Connect, an app integration tool for its own team messaging tool. The motivation for that code was very similar to Slack's, namely to pipe more apps into HipChat to make it more useful and give it a chance of becoming an ever-more-important part of users' days. Atlassian also has an app store for HipChat Connect apps.

Team messaging tools are trying to position themselves as a replacement for old-school instant messaging, email, and even the likes of workflow apps built around Exchange and Domino (which is still chugging away even though IBM scarcely acknowledges its existence). Building an ecosystem around such apps is eminently sensible way to advance their prospects, leaving the nascent market with an good old-fashioned tussle for developers' hearts, minds and keyboards. Such tools also appear to have leapfrogged enterprise Twitter clones (think Microsoft's Yammer), in cool factor if not in seats deployed.

That both Atlassian and Slack have “unicorn” status – a term used to describe startups with a valuation of over US$1billion – is also fuelling enthusiasm for such tools. Atlassian last week hauled in $462m with its IPO and boasts a diverse portfolio of products to leverage. Slack is still private, but stratospherically valued, boasts top-shelf backers and is probably the market leader in team messaging.

A fascinating tussle is therefore in prospect, fuelled by the fact that team messaging apps are are actually quite good*.

Good enough to be email-killers? We'll have to wait and see how the two companies' ecosystem-creation efforts pan out before making that call, while also remembering the utter failure of other attempts to replace email such as Google Wave. ®

* We've been giving one a whirl here at El Reg and it's quickly proved an improvement on some older tools. Shan't elaborate: we're not ready to be a case study and not happy to be seen as endorsing anyone.

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