What is Slack?
Slack is a different kind of messaging service that allows an unlimited number of people to communicate quickly and send ideas back and forth to team members with the push of a button.
Slack can be used both on desktop and notebook computers, as well as on smartphones via apps. Despite its name, the focus is on helping your team to be more productive than ever before.
Since its launch in 2014, Slack has become a popular tool for enterprise collaboration, more than six million people use Slack daily, around a third of whom are paying customers, people are spending on average more than two hours each day inside the chat app. Slack wants to make interactions more fun, which has been a big part of the secret behind its success: public channels messages can be accompanied with GIFs.
Three types of channels exist within each workplace for team members: public, private and, more recently, shared channels. The latter enables communications with staffers at external companies. Channels allow discussions to center on a specific project, team (such as sales or marketing) or a shared interest topic (video, for example). The app also offers direct messages for quick conversations with another team member, using private channel. And you can drag and drop just about any file into the system to quickly and effortlessly share it with team members.
Since launch, the platform has quickly added new features. Video and voice-calling capabilities were rolled out in 2016 and last year screen sharing was enabled – the result of Slack’s ScreenHero acquisition.
Can my boss read my messages?
There are two types of privileged Slack users: admins and “workspace owners.” Both of these special users can download a “standard export” of anything posted to public channels, but only workspace owners can see your messages, through what’s called a “compliance export.” Not all workplaces have compliance exports enabled.
Slack added the compliance exports feature in 2014 for some of its paid customers and the feature is only available on the Plus plan. If your workspace owner has the feature turned on, they will have access to a .zip file with your message history, both from private channels and direct messages. But if your company has such exports currently turned off, you will get a Slackbot notification if any change happens, and your message history prior to the feature being enabled will not be available to view.
A small number of people at Slack have access to the systems that store and process your data, but it’s unclear exactly how many Slack employees do, and who, exactly, those people are.
Has Slack been hacked?
In 2014, a programmer spotted a vulnerability in the chat app that let anyone view a company’s internal Slack teams. And in February 2015, the company suffered a data breach. In a March 2015 blog post, Slack described the news as a “security incident” and announced the rollout of two-factor authentication.
Google and Microsoft are far from the only competitors to Slack. Microsoft reportedly considered acquiring Slack two years ago before deciding to build out its existing collaboration and communication capabilities. The result was the launch in early 2017 of Teams, which is set to replace Skype for Business over time. Google, meanwhile, has relaunched its Hangouts tool, separating it into two apps: Meet and Chat.