Slack launches new features for inter-company collaboration

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Slack Technologies Inc on Tuesday announced support of four new languages and a Shared Channels feature that allows employees of different companies to work together on the popular workplace communication software.

Slack is rolling out the product updates as competition mushrooms in the workplace messaging market, fueled in part by Slack’s own success. Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp, Alphabet Inc’s Google, and Cisco Systems Inc are piling in with new offerings.

“We believe this is the most important thing we’ve done since launching Slack itself,” April Underwood, Slack’s vice president of product, said.

Privately held Slack now has more than 6 million daily active users and more than 2 million paid users, up from 5 million users and 1.5 million paid users in January. The two products are intended to drive Slack’s user adoption around the globe.

Over half of Slack’s users are based outside of the United States, Chief Executive Stewart Butterfield said, and the company hopes to see greater global growth by adding support for French, German, Spanish and Japanese.

The new Shared Channels feature allows users of Slack’s Standard and Plus plans to create group chats with users from their company as well as those of another organization, such as a vendor or a major customer.

“No company is an island,” Underwood said.

It is a theme that has mobilized Slack’s competition too. Since launching last year, Facebook’s Workplace product has allowed for external collaboration. Similarly, Microsoft’s Teams product this week added a feature so that organizations can grant individual guest access to their team group chats.

“Shared Channels keeps Slack further ahead of other real-time chat providers who don’t make this nearly as simple,” said Andy Pflaum, co-founder of Astro, a Palo Alto startup whose technology lets users read their email through Slack.

The team collaborative applications market grew 13.6 percent from 2015 to 2016 and is expected to be worth more than $22 billion by 2021, according to IDC, the marketing consulting firm.

IDC estimates that Slack generated $102 million in revenue in 2016, up 242 percent from 2015. Microsoft remains the leader in the space with 36.8 percent market share compared to Slack’s 5.3 percent hold, according to IDC.

Butterfield says Slack’s customer base grows any time a company starts to use the software.

“Once it spreads inside a company, there’s a strong incentive for people to join, but there will be now a strong incentive for new companies to join,” he said.

Shared Channels, however, are not yet supported for the enterprise version of Slack.

“Shared Channels is a great idea, but today’s announcement is quite limited,” said Alan Lepofsky, analyst with Constellation Research.

Reporting by Salvador Rodriguez; editing by Mary Milliken and Phil Berlowitz

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