Slack is the Operating System

Thanks to its extensibility and the power and flexibility of messaging as a UI system, Slack is more than just a chat room. Anyone who has signed up and spent some time in Slack can tell you this.

Slack is an operating system for a whole new class of apps. As Slack continues to grow, a huge market will emerge for apps that run on this OS — just like the explosive growth of apps for smartphones. These apps will build on and enhance Slack in ways that Slack the company never anticipated.

These apps will use Slack as their primary user interface, and thus be available on all platforms, and appear natively as if they were built into Slack, and provide all sorts of features that otherwise might live in a web, desktop or mobile application. They will be kept instantly in sync, reaching users wherever they are. They’ll provide a consistent, friendly, conversational interface. And they’ll do things in subtly different ways than we’re used to, creating opportunities for time and cost savings, better communication and transparency, and a host of other benefits.

We call them “bots.” They’ve been around for a long time, but they are finally breaking into the mainstream.

The opportunity is huge.

Designing for messaging will become a discipline as important as responsive design, and will incorporate skills as diverse as copy writing, business analytics and API programming. You thought microcopy was important now!

I’ll be so bold as to attempt to coin a phrase about this: We’re going to call it Messaging Experience Design, or MXD.

And Slack is not the only new operating system like this that is emerging. Applications are being built inside other messaging platforms — WeChat, Kik, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger. The difference between these apps boils down to speaking slightly different dialects of the same language: an app built for Slack can probably run in Kik too. There are more than 2 billion users of Kik, WeChat and WhatsApp already.

Designers and developers who can build this new type of software experience stand to reap substantial rewards from a new app store gold rush.

Slack is the Operating System.

Let’s build the killer app!

Update! We have launched our first messaging application — Howdy for Slack, a powerful workplace automation bot!

I’m a designer and technologist in Austin, Texas. I co-founded XOXCO in 2008.

I’m a designer and technologist in Austin, Texas. I co-founded XOXCO in 2008.