Rayl is shy about describing exactly how that landing page would look or work. It’s reasonable to assume that more details could be shared at this month’s Dreamforce conference (which starts tomorrow, September 20 and will include presentations from Slack). She also says that Slack is considering how to insert new signals when someone actually is is available to join an impromptu, synchronous messaging session — something like Slack’s audio tool Huddles, which lets you instantly jump into an audio call with a colleague without all the hassle of making a call.
“Something is different I’m available for the huddle now. As, I’m here, I’m interruptible, which is like someone daydreaming at their desk and you’re like, oh, I can pull up a chair and interrupt them,” says Rayl. “We don’t have all the answers, but we’re thinking about and actively playing with the answers to these things right now.”
For non-Slack users, this might mean little. For Slack users, that’s a big deal. The last time Slack reported its active user numbers in 2019, it had surpassed 12 million users. Safe to say it’s bigger now. Its user base spans 150 countries. 300,000 Slack messages are delivered every second; 1.79 trillion messages have been sent since Slack was launched. Slack users take an average of 2.35 billion “actions” per day on Slack, which can be as involved as making an audio call or as passive as responding to someone’s post with an emoji.
However, Slack faces stiff competition, both from non-direct competitors — like Zoom, which is used primarily for video conferencing rather than instant messaging — and from fully integrated, legacy software companies like Microsoft. Just as Slack is playing around with new video chat options in Huddles, Zoom is going deeper into text-based chat. Just last week, Zoom introduced Zoom Team Chat, which combines video conferencing, file sharing and messaging in one app. Zoom also offers a “presence status” that tells your colleagues whether you’re offline, online on your desktop, online on your phone, or in another Zoom meeting. (The idea just… depend on Zoom all day hasn’t entered my working brain space yet, but Zoom definitely wants it.) The availability icon in Zoom is, of course, a green dot.
However, when it comes to modern out-of-office messaging, Microsoft Teams might have a Slack beat. First, because Microsoft Team has more than 270 million monthly active users. And second, Teams is built on Microsoft’s 365 software suite, which means it’s integrated with a whole host of other apps. A “landing page” in your business chat app? Just go to the Files tab in Teams and create a new Microsoft Word document. If you’re posting a status update in Teams that says you don’t want to be disturbed, you can check a box that says “Show me when people message me.” This means that when a person composes their plausibly intrusive message, the first thing they see is your status in the middle. Out of the house for a while? You can set an email auto reply in Outlook and this status update will be pushed to Teams automatically. The only thing Teams is missing is Slack’s full embrace of this emoji life in your status updates. Put another way, Slack could just be a little more… fun.
Still, nothing is less fun than getting spammed with non-urgent messages if you try severance pay itself out of work mode, and Slack knows it. Rayl is on it. She just can’t promise to fix your colleague ignoring every new status update, or every new UI tweak Slack might try to help you get time back into your day. “There is an awareness piece. Some people are just more aware of the place they occupy in other people’s lives,” says Rayl. “And how much of that can we automate away? I’m not sure.” There’s real-time chat; and then there’s the reality of chat.