Microsoft’s chat and collaboration service Teams now has a bigger daily user base than Slack, but their use cases differ in important ways—particularly in terms of how they integrate with other tools.
Slack is popular, but recently it was revealed that one of its competitors is outpacing it.
Of course, Microsoft’s ownership of that competitor probably gave it a leg up in the market.
Microsoft Teams, part of the Office 365 package, has gained wide use in office environments nationwide. And earlier this month, the Windows maker announced that, at 13 million daily active users and 19 million weekly active users, Teams (which includes collaborative features that work well with Office apps) was officially bigger than Slack, a platform used mainly in chat contexts.
Slack is no small potato itself—the company had a successful launch on the stock market last month (using a direct listing rather than a more common initial public offering), though its stock has declined in recent days. But the challenge from Microsoft has been lingering ever since Teams was announced in March 2017—meaning Microsoft has made significant progress in a short time.
“Catching up so quickly in audience size over two years when Slack has been around since August 2013 is a feather in Microsoft’s cap and may be a reason why it has opted to wait so long to announce any numbers about Teams,” Ars Technica’s Anna Washenko wrote.
The competition between the two firms has been fierce—with Slack famously taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times in 2016 ahead of the Teams announcement.
In reality, the tools have significant differences that may matter for some organizations. Slack, beyond its basic chat functionality, excels at integration with third-party tools, of which there are many due to its more mature developer base. What makes Slack a great tool is that it doesn’t pigeonhole you into a specific platform. Want to collaborate on a Dropbox file? It lets Dropbox do the heavy lifting, but, importantly, serves as a central nervous system for collaboration.
While Teams also has integrations, the strongest integration it supports is with Microsoft’s own Office tools and Azure cloud service, and it excels at more than just chat as a result, representing more of an all-in-one tool.
In other words, the tools get directly compared, but they have significant differences under the hood. As The Verge’s Tom Warren put it earlier this week:
Microsoft Teams ties closely to Office, Skype, and Microsoft’s cloud services, but the company is far behind the third-party integrations that Slack offers and the overall quality and polish. At the same time, Slack feels a little behind on the video and audio calling front, as Microsoft has deeply integrated Skype and it makes holding meetings and recording them a lot easier.
Stewart Butterfield, the cofounder and CEO of Slack (and in another life, the cofounder of Flickr), was quick to pooh-pooh Microsoft’s numbers, comparing Teams to the faltered Google+ when speaking at a conference this week.
“If it’s based on the bigger distribution, I don’t think that’s really a threat,” he said.
And, it should be noted that Slack and Teams aren’t alone in the business chat market. The open-source Mattermost, for example, has emerged as a high-profile Slack alternative, announcing $50 million in funding just last month.
To put it all another way: While Teams may be beating out Slack, the two products (along with their competitors) each take different approaches to driving conversation within an organization. When it comes to the one that works best for your needs, your mileage may vary.