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Slack releases updated API platform for developers

The instant messaging collaboration vendor released its updated API platform for developers to create functions that interact with APIs.

Slack on Monday released updates for Slack API, its platform for developers creating functions that interact with any API.

The updates, available immediately, include a unit-based structure for creating apps, as well as tools for constructing on top of Slack, including Slack CLI -- Slack's command-line interface for interacting with apps -- and TypeScript SDK.

Other upgrades include more secure data storage and better shareability to link creations to other users.

The new modular architecture features three basic units: functions, triggers and workflows.

In addition, Slack said it will later this year update its no-code Workflow Builder for users to automate Slack and integrate frequently used tools. Workflow Builder will let users create functions and workflows by mixing triggers, inputs and outputs with functions for their most commonly used software.

Meanwhile, the updates that are available now give developers tools that are more composable, or less rigid, methods to build software, according to Slack.

"The new architecture is very consistent with trends in IT infrastructure that promote composable solutions," Opus Research analyst Dan Miller said. "And they are turning more controls over to users to innovate."

Salesforce takes over Slack

The updated developer platform comes two years after Salesforce acquired Slack for $27.7 billion. Salesforce's native collaboration platform, Chatter, never took off, even after its renovation to include social media messaging tools for salespeople.

"I felt like the acquisition of Slack was admission that Chatter hadn't caught on," Miller said. "From the beginning, Salesforce took pains to keep Slack intact."

Salesforce and Slack joined forces in hopes of creating a go-to platform for remote workers to collaborate.

I don't believe that Slack competes well against Teams, Zoom or Webex on a feature-by-feature basis.
Dan MillerAnalyst, Opus Research

The acquisition was intended to be mutually beneficial, fortifying Slack to face mammoth Microsoft and its ubiquitous Teams instant messaging platform, and increasing Salesforce's messaging capabilities in its Service Cloud, according to Miller.

Standing up to the competition

But going up against big collaboration providers such as Zoom, Cisco and Microsoft, Slack stood little chance.

"It was never a threat to the big online meeting providers," Miller said. "I don't believe that Slack competes well against Teams, Zoom or Webex on a feature-by-feature basis."

Some might say Slack and Teams are not even in the same market, particularly because Slack lacks video capabilities.

"Slack is good to create groups, threads, channels and discussion forums, but has no video conferencing that Teams has," said Predrag Jakovljevic, analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers. "Lots of places use Slack for messaging, but, say, Zoom for video conferencing."

But that doesn't mean Slack is unpopular.

"I do think Slack has a loyal following of regular users, primarily in huddle-like messaging," Miller said.

In Slack terminology, huddles are an audio-first way to communicate inside a Slack channel or direct message, including those with external partners.

The next frontier for Slack will be generative AI, according to Miller. Microsoft has already incorporated its generative-AI backed Copilot into Teams to create overviews and to-do notes by synthesizing text from messages.

When Salesforce unveiled its similar tool, Einstein GPT, which uses the technology of OpenAI's GPT-3.5, Salesforce said the Einstein GPT would be integrated into Slack for CRM applications.

"What we need to watch for is how Einstein's functionality is applied to Slack instances," Miller said.

Standard workflows using only built-in Slack functions are free. Pricing for premium workflows with custom-coded functions will be chargeable after users exceed a given usage threshold. Pricing for premium workflows is based on the number of times a user in a company's workspace runs a premium workflow.

After a company signs up for premium workflows, it will be allotted an amount of free premium workflow runs. Slack is offering a promotion period from today to Oct. 31 during which users can run premium workflows free of charge.

Mary Reines is a news writer covering customer experience and unified communications for TechTarget Editorial. Before TechTarget, Reines was arts editor at the Marblehead Reporter.

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