Is Slack the Next Facebook?

I know, I know, you’re going to tell me that Slack and Facebook are in 2 different categories and therefore shouldn’t be compared but hear me out.

After watching this TED Talk by Bill Gross, I started thinking about which companies I thought had succeeded mainly attributed to the timing of their launch. Facebook was the main company on my mind. Mark Zuckerberg positioned Facebook unknowingly perfectly between the AIM/Friendster/MySpace era and the AJAX/Web 2.0 revolution but also during the rise of mobile phones.

Though timing played a large role in Facebook’s success, another factor which I believe was paramount: exclusivity, which led to Facebook’s rapid growth of their initial user base. If you recall, Zuckerberg whitelisted one university at a time before even accepting high school students onto the platform.

Today, Facebook is much more public facing, offering users the ability to post publicly and to allow anyone to “follow” their feed rather than exchange friend requests. This option lets users pick and choose what they want to show their friends and what they want to show their fans (or creepers). More celebrities are utilizing public posts on Facebook much like on Twitter. Aside from the lack of search engine indexing and needing a Facebook account to interact with public content, Facebook could not be further from exclusivity.

I wouldn’t call Slack a “social network” but there can definitely be social networking aspects to Slack. Intentionally, Slack is an enterprise communication tool for businesses, large and small, however, people and organizations are using Slack for building exclusive communities and some are even charging for access.

Slack is rising during a similar time much like Facebook: Team members were itching for something better than Skype & HipChat (think AIM & MySpace), technology is making it cheaper & easier to build difficult features (think AJAX), and the movement toward mass adoption of remote work (think mobile devices). The more time that users had access to Facebook (via their mobile devices), the more they would use Facebook. The same principle is true when applied to remote work: the more that companies offer (or require) remote work, the more that Slack and similar tools become essential and used.

Even though most of your non-work friends won’t be jumping on Slack anytime soon to hang out, this comparison holds true: If most of your college era friends were attending alongside you at MIT while Facebook only accepted Harvard users, would Facebook be useful to you at that time, even if you could cheat your way in? No, you may have had some friends over at Harvard but ultimately no, you’d rather share status updates with your MIT buddies. The same is true for Slack. If your friend’s job uses Slack but your job doesn’t, then you have little desire (or ability) to join the conversation over at your friend’s company because none of your coworkers are on it, more specifically, on that Slack team. But if your job were to start using Slack, it becomes crucial for you to use Slack alongside your coworkers and managers. And that’s the thing about business focused (b2b) software, it’s either restricted or required. The majority of growth for b2b software companies depends on company wide adoption as opposed to the individual adoption seen on platforms like Facebook.

I predict that as remote work becomes increasingly adopted, so will Slack. That covers the business side of things. Meanwhile, the more that services like Facebook become public facing and bloated with obnoxious copycat features, the more people will seek newer, simpler, less noisy services that offer homes for subjects they are passionate about. If you’ve used both Slack and Facebook Groups, which would you honestly rather jump start for your next community on? Which would you rather join to network with other like-minded people? Slack’s adoption path may be split into two halves but maybe the answer to the future of growth is compartmental?

Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment below or send me a message on Twitter. Thanks for reading :)