WhatsApp has pushed out numerous tweaks and improvements in recent months, and there's a new one to know about: the Communities feature that works in a similar way to public servers on Discord or Slack, which can then be split up into smaller groups as needed.
As per the official blog post announcing the news, Communities will “enable people to bring together separate groups under one umbrella to better organize conversations”. The update is being rolled out now and will take a few weeks to reach everyone.
The idea is that the feature will make it easier for non-profit organizations, local clubs, schools and other groups to communicate within their groups – these communities might be used by school heads to share important announcements and updates, for example.
Even more new features
WhatsApp is introducing a bunch of other new features for group chats too, whether or not they're part of Communities: voice calls for up to 32 users, upgraded file sharing capacities (up to 2GB), and the ability for admins to delete messages that aren't appropriate for the group.
We're also going to get emoji reactions to messages – the same reactions you've probably become used to in every other chat platform out there, including Discord, Slack, and indeed Facebook Messenger.
It sounds as though at least some of these features will be released to beta users first before everyone gets access to them, so don't panic if you can't see them straight away. For more details on what's involved, see the official blog post.
Analysis: Meta wants all of your chats, all of the time
Meta chief Mark Zuckberg is no stranger to ripping off the best features of other apps – or indeed apps in their entirety. Take the stories feature of Snapchat, for example: once Zuckerberg realized how popular the format was, it was rushed into Instagram and Facebook as quickly as possible.
Instagram and Facebook have since tried their best to copy TikTok and piggyback on its success, though these efforts aren't getting much traction for the time being. Don't forget both Instagram and WhatsApp were bought and swallowed up by Facebook as they were starting to take away its market share, whereas Snapchat famously rebuffed Facebook's advances.
With that in mind, WhatsApp's introduction of features familiar from Discord and Slack shouldn't really come as any surprise. Zuckerberg himself says Communities is “an important evolution for WhatsApp and online communication overall”, spoken like someone who has used these other products that WhatsApp is competing with and see how intuitive they can be.
As Slack has been with us for eight years at this point, WhatsApp is actually quite slow off the mark, but the intention is clear – to make sure you spend as little time as possible in apps that aren't made by Meta. As with every other tech giant out there, Meta is keen to lock you into its products as tightly as possible.
Meta has announced that Slack-like shortcuts are coming to Messenger to make it easier to get the attention of an entire group chat.
Just like in Google Workspace and many other online services today, typing “@” and a person's name will tag that specific person in a group chat or document. Now though with the new @everyone shortcut, Messenger users on iOS and Android will be able to ensure that everyone in a chat sees what they have to say.
When you start a message with @everyone in Messenger, all of the participants in the chat will be notified which is perfect for group reminders, impromptu get-togethers or when you need everyone's help to answer a specific question.
In addition to the new @everyone shortcut, Meta is rolling out its new /silent shortcut for those times when you want to say something in a group chat but don't want to wake up others with a notification or disturb those who live in different time zones. This shortcut is also available on Instagram though on the service it is written as “@silent” instead.
Meta's new @everyone and /silent shortcuts are just the beginning though as Facebook's parent company plans to add even more shortcuts to Messenger going forward according to a new blog post.
Messenger users in the US will soon be able to use the /pay shortcut to make it easier to send and receive money directly from their one-one-one chats. To use the shortcut, simply type /pay to send or request money securely without fees.
GIFs are another way that users like to express themselves which is why Meta plans to add its new /gif shortcut to Messenger on iOS. Typing /gif followed by a topic at the beginning of a message will pull up a row of GIFs that users can choose from to insert into their chats.
Likewise on Messenger for iOS, Meta plans to roll out its /shrug and /tableflip shortcuts so that users don't have to type out the old-school text based tableflip “(╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻” and shrug “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” emoticons.
While @everyone, /silent and /gif could be quite useful for Messenger users, /shrug and /tableflip are more of a throwback to a simpler time before emoji became what they are today.
Keeping in touch with your colleagues around the world could soon be a lot easier thanks to a new update to Google Chat.
The online collaboration service is now allowing users to create group chats (known as Spaces) within Google Chat that you can then share with others in your organization.
Much like Slack, once a new custom Spaces group has been created, you'll be able to share it with whoever you choose, with participants able to join by clicking on a custom link.
Google Chat or Slack?
“With this launch, Spaces are no longer restricted to only people added to the conversation,” Google said in a Workspace blog post announcing the news.
The company says the update will be particularly useful for creating and sharing “topic-based conversations” within your business, such as team discussions, how-to guides and mentoring opportunities.
The change could also help leaders or admins share organizational and policy updates, or gather together a particularly interested or skilled group, such as when investigating an outage. Or, it could be great for just finding those with similar interests to yourself, allowing for custom groups to celebrate anything from sports to cooking.
Spaces will only be able to be shared with those inside your organization, and will have to be entirely new groups created from this date forward.
The feature is available and rolling out now to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers.
The news is the latest change to Google Chat to bring it more in line with some of its rivals, offering tools such as in-line replies and native content search, bringing Google Chat closer in line with services like Slack and Teams.
Google Chat officially replaced Google Hangouts earlier this year, with all enterprise and business users on “Classic Hangouts” having been upgraded to the new service by March 22, 2022.
The company says the move will ensure all Google Workspace customers are using the same platform, with anyone trying to access Hangouts being redirected across to Google Chat.
If you're seeing issues with Slack not working for you today, you're not alone. The online collaboration tool is currently down for users across the world.
The issue began around 6am PT / 9am ET / 2pm GMT on Tuesday 22 February, 2022, with users in multiple continents reporting issues.
There's been no word from Slack yet on what is causing the outage, so stay tuned and we'll keep you posted on all the latest updates and news below…
As we mentioned above, issues with Slack began appearing just as many workers in the US were signing on for the day.
Outage tracker site DownDetector showed a huge spike in complaints, with users also flocking to Twitter to report problems.
The issues appear to be affecting users of the Slack desktop app, with multiple browsers affected.
Here's what we're seeing when trying to access Slack on Google Chrome – but users on other browsers have also reported not being able to access.
The official Slack status Twitter account isn't reporting any issues just yet, but we're keeping an eye on it – the outage reports have now topped six thousand within less than half an hour, so something serious must be wrong…
When it comes to collaborating with colleagues, most workers are more likely to use Slack, rather than Microsoft Teams, new research has found..
However, when it comes to making video conferencing calls, chances are people will be using Teams instead of Slack.
A report from SaaS intelligence firm Productiv found 175,000 of its users opt for Slack, while 70,000 went for Teams as their productivity weapon of choice, although many of these users overlap, and go for both platforms when it suits them.
Slack is for chats, Teams is for video calls
So, for overall engagement over 60 days (measuring for one day, a week, a month, and two months), in which “engagement” is defined as logging in and sending a message, Slack is a clear winner, getting more than double the engagement compared to Teams.
Measuring for a day, 37% of Slack users engaged with the platform, compared to 14% of Teams users. Measuring for two months, on the other hand, has shown 83% for Slack users, and 42% for Teams users.
Similar figures are for group messages, as 92% of engaged users in Slack used the feature over the course of 30 days, while just 11% of Teams users did the same.
When it comes to attending meetings, however, Teams excels, while Slack lags behind. Measuring for a single day, just 2% of Slack users logged in for the feature, compared to 46% of Teams users. For 30 days, it’s 12% and 62%, respectively.
Among the possible reasons for this discrepancy, Productiv believes, is the fact that Teams comes bundled with, and is integrated well, with Outlook. Microsoft has also “heavily advertised” the video conferencing feature in its Teams platform, while many Slack users might not be fully aware of their platform offering the same functionality.
Finally, it could be due to many Slack users already very used to Zoom for video conferencing, Productiv concluded.
There is a pleasing circularity to the recent career of Pip White, who in November took on the role of SVP & General Manager EMEA at collaboration software company Slack.
Previously, White had spent a number of years running the sales operation at CRM titan Salesforce, before departing for a job at Google’s cloud arm. In the summer of 2021, Salesforce finalized an acquisition of Slack worth $ 28 billion, and now White finds herself in familiar company.
A few months into her new role, TechRadarPro spoke to White about Slack’s ambitions for the coming year, with the pandemic continuing to confine many workers to their home offices.
The official party line goes a little something like this: Slack is the only viable digital headquarters for the hybrid working era, wherein we will all work in a fluid and asynchronous manner from a variety of locations. It’s a message we’ve heard many times over by now.
However, White also offered insight into the nature of the company’s relationship with its new parent organization, as well as the way it perceives its competition in the collaboration sector.
Asked why she traded in her position at Google Cloud for one at Slack, White explained that the acquisition by Salesforce played a large part, as did the platform’s role in the evolution of work.
“The opportunity to lead Slack in EMEA was a compelling one, especially in the context of the integration into Salesforce and the doors that has opened from an existing customer and growth perspective,” she explained.
“It was also about where we are in the world right now, in terms of the way people are thinking about different ways of working. Slack presents a really interesting opportunity at the forefront of that transformation.”
Having rolled out Slack internally prior to the acquisition, Salesforce was already equipped with a “really good feel for the technology”, White told us. And in future, the new parent company will help guide product development, as well as pursuing opportunities relating to the integration of Slack and Salesforce products.
Slack founder and CEO Stuart Butterfield now reports in to Bret Taylor, who was recently appointed co-CEO at Salesforce. White describes this relationship as a “tight connection and collaboration” from a product perspective.
“It’s a case of collaboration, not of Salesforce taking over, or vice versa,” said White. “It’s about what’s in the best interests of our customers and how we can help them on this hybrid working journey.”
“Slack will be central to minimizing disruption and accelerating the opportunity for collaboration in this new digital economy, and even more so as a result of the new use cases we’ve been exploring since the acquisition.”
This may well prove to be the case, but Slack will first have to see off increasingly stiff competition from a number of directions.
As a result of the pandemic and shift to remote working, the collaboration and video conferencing market has never been hotter, nor more competitive. According to a recent survey from Gartner, there has been a 44% rise in the use of collaboration tools since 2019.
These kinds of services have also become increasingly amorphous over the last couple of years, as the largest players continue to borrow features and design concepts from one another. In a venn diagram that maps out functionality, platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack and others would overlap significantly.
However, White doesn’t accept the notion that Slack can be easily compared with other services, nor that the platform faces serious competition. Asked specifically about the rivalry between Slack and Microsoft Teams, she told us: “it’s not necessarily an apples to apples comparison”.
This felt a touch disingenuous, given the commonalities between the two services; both offer text chat, group channels, audio calls, file sharing and integrations with third-party apps. In our mind, someone could be forgiven for thinking Slack and Teams are fruit of much the same tree.
In 2020, Slack also filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft over the bundling together of Teams and Office 365 services, which the company says amounts to an unfair advantage. Both White and Slack’s communications agency refused to be drawn into discussing the legal dispute, which is yet to be resolved, but its existence implies there is rivalry there.
“We will continue to innovate around these themes,” she told us. “All employers are thinking about how to approach cultural shifts and flux in the working environment; a lot of employees want different things.”
“The situation is going to continue to evolve, so it’s about anticipating change and being supremely flexible. Technologies that allow for asynchronous working away from the physical office will enable that journey.”
An automated future
Regardless of whether Slack faces direct opposition from services like Teams, however, the company obviously has a clear vision for the future of its software.
As announced in mid-November, Slack has “rebuilt and reengineered” large parts of the platform from the ground up. The main improvement is the introduction of a library of “building blocks” to the Slack Workflow Builder, which make it simpler to develop automations that eliminate the need to juggle many different business apps.
Building these automations requires no coding whatsoever; the Lego-like blocks can be chained together via a simple drag-and-drop mechanism, which means workers don’t have to rely on overburdened developer teams to code-in new functionality.
If there is no available building block that fulfils a particular task, a developer can step in to create one on an employee’s behalf. This new block will then become available across the organization and can be “remixed” into various other workflows.
According to White, customers are beginning to utilize this and other new functionality to great effect, in ways that are not possible on any other platform.
“We see the ability to bring work into channel as a key differentiator for us. The way in which most of our customers are starting to use Slack in anger, so to speak, is all about the ability to collaborate endlessly from one process to another,” she said.
“We’re only beginning to see the start of changes to ways of working. A lot has changed in some sectors and digital transformation has undoubtedly been accelerated, but we’re still at the start of this journey. I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to reconsider the ways in which we work.”
After raising around $ 16m in funding, Quill exited beta earlier this year as an alternative to Slack available on Windows, macOS, Linus, Android and iOS.
In a new report, TechCrunch points out that the company was founded by the former creative director of Stripe, Ludwig Pettersson who is well known and admired by many in the startup community.
While neither Twitter nor Quill disclosed the terms of the deal, Quill did put out an announcement in which it informed users of its business messaging service that they will have until December 11 to export their team message data. Surprisingly though, Quill has created a Python script that allows users to transform their data into the CSV format so it can be imported into Slack.
As part of the acquisition, Quill's staff will be joining Twitter's Experience organization to help work on the social network's messaging tools and direct messages while Pettersson will become a product manager reporting to the Conversations team.
Since its launch in 2006, Twitter's direct messages or DMs have grown in popularity as a way to communicate quickly with others online and as a result, many have wondered whether the company would try to turn them into a standalone product or even a paid service for businesses.
Online collaboration tools have become essential for businesses during the pandemic as being able to communicate with co-workers is especially important when working from home. Now that Slack is part of Salesforce, organizations may be looking for an alternative business messaging service and by purchasing Quill, Twitter is in the perfect position to offer its own solution.
We'll have to wait and see what happens as a result of Twitter's Quill acquisition but with a new CEO at the helm who is actively trying to diversify its business, business DMs could be a very real possibility.