The tit-for-tat feature race between Slack and its besuited rival Microsoft Teams has resumed with the creation of Slack Connect, allowing 20 organisations into a single Slack channel.
Even the most ardent Microsoft apologist would struggle to insist that Teams is particularly good when it comes to collaborating with those outside of the organisation. Redmond's "Guest" approach could be charitably described as a little clunky.
Slack's take is to bring in one or more organisations (currently up to 20) into a shared channel for boundary-hopping communication rather than tedious email threads bouncing between enterprises; the company's antipathy toward email is, after all, well documented.
Security is, we were told, taken care of by Slack's "enterprise-grade" features, although admins suffering from a twitching eyelid at the thought of corporate secrets finding their way into the sandal-wearing hipster chat channels might consider hanging fire a bit longer before opening the messaging floodgates and waiting for Enterprise Key Management (via Amazon Web Services), which will up the control over data and, importantly, who can see it.
The gang has been working on the platform for the last four years and has plans to add the likes of calendar integration to the toolset, which will require the scanning of participants' calendars over organisations. The ability to set up a meeting with customers or vendors without playing invite ping-pong will be a glorious thing indeed.
Slack's altruism does not extend to its free plans, however. This is very much for paying customers only at present. Bounding over enterprise walls could also see Slack stick a nose into places it might otherwise not go, as CEO Stewart Butterfield observed: "We've seen customers bring their partners or their customers into Slack just so they could have a shared channel across the organisational boundaries."
The Register has contacted Microsoft to see how it will respond. Difficulties in persuading Teams to work over organisational boundaries has long been an issue in the Microsoft world. However, the pushing of the platform to Microsoft 365 users regardless has thus far resulted in impressive growth beyond Slack's 12 million or so daily users and 119,000 paying customers.
Slack is dreaming of a future where its channels might relegate cross-business emails to the fringes, and provide a medium for the signing of contracts, delivering of invoices and accepting of purchase orders.
And GIFs. Lots and lots of GIFs. ®