Skip to main content

Slack is getting Instagram-like stories and push-to-talk audio calls for the pandemic era

Slack is getting Instagram-like stories and push-to-talk audio calls for the pandemic era

/

Get ready to Slack your daily stories

Share this story

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Slack is getting ready to introduce Instagram-like stories and push-to-talk audio into its communications software before the end of 2020. Both additions are born out of the shift to remote working during the pandemic era we’re all adjusting to. Slack is hoping these features might cut down on constant video calls or inefficient text conversations, and bring back the impromptu office interactions most people haven’t experienced for months.

While Instagram stories are designed to share your every day life experiences with friends and family, Slack’s stories aren’t really about videos of your pets, favorite food, or vacations. Slack sees the video snippets as a way for remote workers to check in and provide status updates, for example, or to set the daily agenda for a team.

“It’s very much like Instagram stories, or snapchat stories, but in Slack,” is how Slack’s CEO, Stewart Butterfield, explained the new stories video feature in an interview with The Verge this week. “There was a joke going around that soon all software will have it, and I thought that was funny at the time. But especially during the pandemic, and the difference in how we as a company are approaching work, means it’s an idea that’s time has come.”

Prototype of how Slack’s stories feature will work.
Prototype of how Slack’s stories feature will work.
Slack

“Instead of having this 15-minute daily stand-up meeting, can we record the video earlier... and get rid of the 15-minute meeting?” asks Butterfield. Slack is still experimenting with and prototyping how stories will show up, but these short videos should appear alongside channels, allowing people to use them as a way to check in with each other or even as a form of status updates. “It’s a little bit more of a human way of giving updates,” says Butterfield, and a more informal and flexible way for people to participate in meetings without having to hold a dedicated one.

Video conferencing has never been a core part of Slack, and the company’s direct video and audio calling features haven’t been a particular strong point either, just as Zoom has entered the mainstream. That’s left Slack adjusting to this new era where everyone is suddenly jumping on more video calls for work and even social activities. Slack partnered with Amazon earlier this year to switch to Chime for voice and video calling, and now it’s experimenting with features beyond traditional video calls.

“Video conferencing is obviously not going away, but I think it’s a legacy of the last 20 years of unified communications as a category,” explains Butterfield. “I think over the next 20 years, especially given the stuff that happens with our mobile devices as consumers, I think we need room for more than just video conferencing as a means of people communicating using voice and video.”

Prototype of Slack’s always-available audio feature.
Prototype of Slack’s always-available audio feature.
Slack

Alongside the new stories feature, Slack is also planning to introduce instant audio. It will work in a similar way to push-to-talk, as a feature to enable spontaneous calls with co-workers within channels.

“The idea is we already have channels... starting a call or scheduling a call can feel pretty heavy whereas when we were all in the office leaning over or shouting out to someone a couple of desks away with a question feels very lightweight, so we’re trying to recreate that,” says Butterfield.

This always-available audio sounds like it will work like a Discord call, where there are always available voice channels that people can hop in and out of and see co-workers online and chatting. “The idea is that the call isn’t something that starts and stops, it’s something you enter and leave and the call is always there permanently associated with the channel,” explains Butterfield.

It seems like an ideal feature for smaller, more agile teams where you quickly need to huddle and discuss a project or idea, without scheduling time for a full video call. “It’s not something that will sneak up on people, it’s meant for very specific participation,” says Butterfield. “It’s meant for generally small teams that are working very close with each other on a specific problem.” Voice can also convey more nuance than a typical text-based Slack conversation can.

Both of these new audio and video features are still in the prototype phase at Slack, but Butterfield says they should arrive “some time this year.” With only a few months left of the year that is 2020, it’s safe to say these features will definitely be arriving soon, but they could be marked as beta or roll out gradually.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 6:45 AM UTC Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

T
Thomas Ricker6:45 AM UTC
Check out this delightful DART Easter egg.

Just Google for “NASA DART.” You’re welcome.


R
Twitter
Richard Lawler12:00 AM UTC
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther WangSep 26
E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James VincentSep 26
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James VincentSep 26
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.