By Klaris Chua. Slack has undeniably become the front runner in the instant messaging and team collaboration space ever since it launched in 2013. Touted as the fastest-growing business application in recent times, it was built on the idea that it’s more productive for employees within an organisation to exchange instant messages and swap electronic files instead of exchanging emails.
From casual meetings to company-wide announcements, and from sharing reports or meeting notes to sending photos of a colleague’s new baby, Slack allows an entire spectrum of communication to flow within a company using just one software.
But while Slack has become wildly popular among offices, it certainly isn’t for everyone. Some people are averse to the platform because it’s just like an old-school IRC channel. Others hate it for the per-user charge for special features.
If you’re one of those who are not a huge fan of Slack, read on to check out some of the best alternatives you can consider for your business today.
Perhaps Slack’s runner up, some collaborative teams prefer HipChat because it offers simpler and cheaper pricing compared to most services in the same category. It also has a seemingly unlimited limit on file uploads, so it will be useful for teams who work on heavy and multiple files at once.
In addition, it offers numerous integrations with other business tools that are not commonly found on other tools. It is also highly recommended to teams who are highly dependent on Atlassian products such as JIRA.
Another option is Mattermost, an open source, private cloud-powered tool that is the complete opposite of Slack’s SaaS-only essence. Since it is “self-hosted,” companies are in charge of providing the control, security, privacy, legal compliance, and others.
Like Slack, it was created by an indie video game company called SpinPunch. This team initially used Slack but didn’t like how they were unable to export their old chat logs using the tool. They managed to turn this roadblock into an opportunity by re-purposing the chat feature of their game development engine, which eventually became Mattermost.
In mid-2015, cloud communications leader RingCentral acquired Glip, a real-time web messaging application with task management and file sharing capabilities. After the acquisition, Glip has expanded to include more features while RingCentral was able to fill the gap in providing a complete unified communications service to its customers.
While Slack is more oriented to the needs of software developers, Glip positions itself as something that could appeal not just to the said demographic but for everyone else. Recognising that the problem of messaging and collaboration is much wider, the developers have included calendars, notes, video conferencing, and fun features such as GIF sharing, a meme generator, custom emojis and the like.
The company is making money in offering hosting for Rocket.chat users who don’t want to host the service in their own servers. They also sell support and other customisations to existing customers to supplement their profits.
While Slack is hell-bent on killing email, Fleep does the opposite. It allows you to join conversations using your email (it doesn’t matter if you’re a Fleep user or not), which makes it ideal for talking to customers and other people outside of your organisation. In short, Slack is team-centric while Fleep is user-centric.
In Fleep, users also have to be added by someone in a conversation, just like how people are CC’d in an email chain. You can’t go back and review what people talked about before you joined in. It is siloed, but it may really work for some people.
Gitter.im aims to become the preferred communications service for projects on the development platform GitHub. It provides free and private chat rooms for developers with integrations for issue tracking, notifications, and the like. To be able to use the service, users must sign in using their GitHub account.
Much like Slack, it offers a centralised feed for activities within a project alongside a chat panel. Where it differs is that Gitter is way, way cheaper.
Some people say that Slack is lacking in the area of task management and integrations, since one would need to integrate with an external app for that person to be able to track a project. Flock tries to tackle Slack’s limitations in these areas by bringing in a bunch of built-in tools like assignable to-do lists, reminders, polls, summaries, and the like.
Flock’s UI also seem to be prettier and more intuitive, without the Slack-like price tag. Lastly, it features a set of APIs that developers can use to build custom apps and bots. Apps built on the Flock developer platform can also show up on the UI, which makes it very ideal for higher levels of customisation.
Slack may be a unicorn in the messaging start-up space, but the truth is, it’s not really the only one out there. It just so happened that they had the right ingredients – a great idea, top-notch implementation, sufficient support, a ton of financial backers, and an open platform. In any case, you should find the one that will best fit your existing work flow – even if it’s not necessarily the most popular service out there.
Klaris Chua is a digital content marketer who has written many pieces on startups and small business communications. She used to be a reporter for a business newspaper but the conventional path of a writer didn’t appeal to her. You can connect with her on Twitter.