Image: Slack

In the next major step in its quest to replace email, Slack plans to start allowing direct messages between people who work at different companies, regardless of whether the companies are themselves connected via Slack.

Why it matters: Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield told Axios this is the company's biggest product move since it started allowing companies to have shared channels with outside vendors, suppliers and partners.

Details:

  • The expanded direct messaging feature is being announced at the Slack Frontiers conference today, but won't be available until early next year.
  • Companies will be able to decide who employees can send direct messages to, as well as the retention policies for such messages.
  • Slack is also showing demos of how Slack could be used for people to send asynchronous voice and video messages within channels. The features are being tested internally at Slack, but the company isn't saying if and when they will be available more broadly.

The big picture: The pandemic has highlighted the need for tools to better connect remote employees with one another.

  • Butterfield told Axios the company is seeking "opportunities not just to make the situation bearable, but kind of the opposite ... What can we change to create new opportunities?"

Slack isn't alone. Microsoft has been rapidly working to expand its Microsoft Teams product. And on Tuesday Google announced the rebranding of its G Suite as Google Workspace.

  • With the name change come new features aimed at remote collaboration, such as picture-in-picture video allowing people to see one another while collaborating on a document.

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