If you work at one of the 50,000 companies
that pay to use Slack for workplace collaboration, you probably spend hours on
it, swapping information, bantering, and
sharing files with your colleagues. It’s a
casual, flexible way to interact—you tap out
brief messages in group chat rooms (called
channels) instead of sending e-mail, and
it feels more like a smartphone app than
typical o;ce software.
But while it can be an e;cient way to
collaborate, keeping up with Slack can
become a full-time task, particularly when
you return from a few days away and find
thousands of status updates, scattered
across dozens of channels. Slack estimates
that the average user sends 70 messages
per day. How can you know which are
must-reads and which can be skipped?
Slack’s solution: artificial intelligence.
In early 2016, the startup hired Stanford-
trained computer scientist Noah Weiss to
make the platform smarter. Over the past
year and a half, Weiss’s group has used
machine learning to enable faster, more
accurate information searches within
Slack and identify which unread messages
are likely to matter most to each user.
Slack says its platform, which launched
publicly in 2014, is the fastest-growing
business application ever, with more than
six million daily active users. The company
also predicts it will be bigger in the workplace than e-mail by 2025.
But e-mail isn’t its only competition. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft,
with their large existing user bases, have
all released office collaboration tools
recently. Microsoft says that 125,000
organizations use Microsoft Teams, its
group-chat platform, which is bundled
free with some O;ce 365 plans. Facebook
says that more than 30,000 organizations, including Walmart, use its Workplace by Facebook service.
These chat products deliver not only
steady revenues from monthly and annual
service fees, but also troves of data that
show how people interact within companies and what types of files and applica-
Slack hopes its AI will keep you
from hating Slack
The fastest-growing business app is relying on machine-learning tricks to fend off a
deluge of messages—as well as competition from Facebook and Microsoft.
Noah Weiss is head of Slack’s AI team, the
Search, Learning, and Intelligence group.