Workplace messaging startup Slack is close to cracking one of its most wanted features: threaded messaging. In conversation with The Verge's Walt Mossberg, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said the company has been prototyping various forms of threaded messaging internally for months in search of a solution that doesn't add too much clutter to the product's fast and free flow. Butterfield says the feature should hopefully arrive in the next quarter.
Threaded messaging would let Slack users converse in nestled clusters, which would help prevent confusion and give people a neat and easy way to converse about a single topic without interrupting the main conversation. The risk there, however, is Slack's casual AOL chat room vibe could be disrupted by the hallmark feature of email, the very technology Slack is trying to diminish. Threaded messaging requires a careful balance, so it makes sense the company would want to get it right the first time.
Threaded messaging requires a careful balance
For those outside Silicon Valley circles, Slack is essentially a prettier and more powerful version of a chat room for the workplace. Although the idea sounds simple, Slack has become a darling of media companies and tech startups, and it's only getting bigger. The company claims to be the fastest growing business application in history. As of April 1st, Slack counts 2.7 million daily active users, up from 17,000 users in February 2014. (Vox Media, including The Verge and Re/code, uses Slack for all daily operations.)
Still, Slack can be overwhelming. "We are conscious that we need a lot more nuance and ways to restrict the firehose, to give people more control over how the information flows so they can restrict it to what they need… We need better ways for people to catch up," Butterfield says. Threaded messages could go a long way in helping Slack address those criticisms, if only by letting you let go of a thread and move on.