Mar 25, 2021 - Technology

Slack stumbles in its push to connect everyone

Illustration of a hand holding a hammer that is breaking a text message bubble.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Workplace messaging service Slack on Wednesday turned on a feature allowing users to send messages to others who work for different companies or organizations. However, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva and Ina Fried report, the long-planned move quickly hit a speed bump, as users pointed out ways the system could be easily abused.

The big picture: Slack's long-term goal is to be a better alternative to email. But as it tries to expand its service it risks losing the qualities that made it appealing in the first place.

What happened: Slack made the feature, known as Slack Connect DMs, broadly available to paid customers on Wednesday.

  • Journalists and Slack users immediately pointed out ways that the feature could be misused for spam or harassment, especially since people were allowed to send a message accompanying their request to connect — an open door for potentially unwanted communication.
  • Slack responded quickly, saying it was eliminating the ability to customize the initial requests — which, after all, was a way to send a message before getting permission to … send messages.
  • "We made a mistake in this initial roll-out that is inconsistent with our goals for the product and the typical experience of Slack Connect usage," Slack VP of communications and policy Jonathan Prince said in a statement.

Between the lines: Slack tells Axios that there are limits to the number of Slack Connect DM requests a user can send to prevent harassment and spam, though it declined to share specifics to avoid making it easier for bad actors to exploit its system.

  • It's also eliminating the ability to send multiple invites to the same email address.

The bottom line: Even if Slack works through these problems, it has a tough needle to thread: the more it tries to open Slack up, which may make business sense for the company, the more likely it is to lose the focus many of its users cherish.

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