Slack is introducing Instagram-like Stories and direct messaging across organizations

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Slack has become increasingly essential to millions of workers who need to stay in contact while working from home.

The communications platform is launching new features that reflect the new normal, including Instagram-like Stories that could replace tedious video meetings.

Also on the agenda: A push-to-talk audio option that would allow coworkers to chat instantaneously and Slack Connect DMs that allows users on different networks to communicate directly.

The new features are set to rollout his week during Slack’s annual Frontiers conference and should be available in the coming months.  

‘We know there are better ways to collaborate than simply falling into the copy-paste trap of moving physical behaviors to the digital world,’ the company said in a blog post on Wednesday.  

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Slack says it is introducing asynchronous video by the end of the year. Operating similarly to Instagram Stories, the feature would allow users to record an update for coworkers to watch whenever they want, rather than have a scheduled all-hands meeting

Slack says it is introducing asynchronous video by the end of the year. Operating similarly to Instagram Stories, the feature would allow users to record an update for coworkers to watch whenever they want, rather than have a scheduled all-hands meeting

‘On the other hand, people miss the unplanned, spontaneous interactions in the office that helped us stay aligned, make quick decisions and spark new ideas.’

The company said its stories feature will give users a lot more flexibility.  

‘Imagine the daily standup meeting that happens from 9 to 9:15 every morning. What if you could record your update at 8:53 a.m. and watch the others at 10:51 when it’s more convenient for you?’ it said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield called it ‘a little bit more of a human way of giving updates.’  

Slack Connect Direct Messages will allow users to chat with people in different networks after they accept an invitation. Admins will have the power to pre-approve channel requests with certain organizations

Slack Connect Direct Messages will allow users to chat with people in different networks after they accept an invitation. Admins will have the power to pre-approve channel requests with certain organizations

Asynchronous video is still in the prototype phase, but Butterfield told The Verge it should be introduced before the end of 2020.  

Another feature born of the pandemic is instant audio, Slack sees as bringing back some of the spontaneous communication of the pre-lockdown era. 

‘Starting a call or scheduling a call can feel pretty heavy,’ Butterfield said, ‘whereas, when we were all in the office, leaning over or shouting out to someone a couple of desks away with a question feels very lightweight, so we’re trying to recreate that.’

Users could hop on or off a voice channel that is always active, much like Slack’s regular channels, but with more nuance than text provides.

The push-to-talk feature is meant ‘for generally small teams that are working very close with each other on a specific problem,’ according to Butterfield.

Slack is also planning on rolling out direct messaging between users in two different networks.

Currently, Slack users can only direct message people in their organization.

Verified companies will be denoted with a checkmark to let employees know they’re connecting with a trusted organization.

Slack is also launching a feature called managed connections, which will allow admins to pre-approve channel requests with certain organizations.

Slack Connect DMs and managed connections are slated for early 2021.

Slack has partnered with Cole Haan on a limited edition series of sneakers available in the colors of the company's logo - blue, green, yellow and red. Retailing for $120, the Generation Zerøgrand is available online and in select Cole Haan stores starting today

Slack has partnered with Cole Haan on a limited edition series of sneakers available in the colors of the company’s logo – blue, green, yellow and red. Retailing for $120, the Generation Zerøgrand is available online and in select Cole Haan stores starting today

Usage of the platform has increased significantly during COVID-19. The company reported that simultaneously connected users increased from 10.5 million on March 16 to 12.5 million on March 25. 

Slack is taking full advantage of its heightened profile, even partnering with shoemaker Cole Haan on a line of limited-edition sneakers.

Retailing for $120, the Generation Zerøgrand is available online and in select Cole Haan stores starting today.

It comes in each of the four colors that comprise the Slack logo: red, blue, green and yellow.

‘The partnership felt like a natural fit for the two innovation brands, particularly given that each stage of Cole Haan’s product development — including the creation of this particular collaboration — happens on Slack,’ Cole Haan said in a statement.

It hasn’t been all good news for the company: On Monday morning, Slack experienced an outage that lasted hours, leaving thousands of users in North America and parts of Europe unable to send or receive messages.

‘Some users may be experiencing slowness with Slack in the desktop, browser and mobile at this time. The issue is impacting sending messages and troubles with API calls,’ the firm shared in a statement. 

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