Since I know Tidbits has promoted Slack in the past, I wondered how people are responding to the recently announced changes in free accounts, which start on September 1. As I understand it, they will limit Slack workspace history to 90 days, instead of 10K messages. Since there must be thousands of free accounts, with years of messages accumulated in low-volume workspaces, this will be a hugely disruptive change and, it seems to me, represents an abuse of the years of trust many of us have placed in Slack. At the least, they should grandfather in current free plans. I wonder if there is any scope for a sufficiently large backlash to make them revisit this decision. I would also be interested in suggestions about how to migrate existing workspaces.
I think they offer quite a lot for free even with the 90 day limit. If a group wants to use Slack as a semi-permanent archive, it seems reasonable for them to have to pay. The only Slack groups I’m in are casual, and retention of historical messages is unimportant. If it were important, I wouldn’t feel betrayed by needing to pay for the service.
I’m pleased that it doesn’t affect you, and I don’t object to companies choosing their terms of service on a commercial basis, as long as you know what they are when you sign up. What I object to is that when we decided to use Slack, we did so on the assumption that, with our pattern of usage, we could rely on messages being available for several years. Now, with just over a month’s notice, we will lose nearly all of them. It’s would be a classic bait-and-switch, except that Salesforce didn’t own Slack when we signed up.
Slack was acquired by Salesforce about a year ago. Slack had never turned a dime and was highly unprofitable when it was sold:
Slack was a great addition to Salesforce’s portfolio, one that has helped Salesforce’s CRM packages become more threatening to its competitors. They leveled the playing field occupied by Google Cloud Services, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, Amazon Cloud, SAP, ZenDesk, etc. Although Salesforce is a decades younger company then these big names, it moved Salesforce up quit a few notches and definitely disrupted the playing field. Here’s just one example:
Compared to its competitors who have been in business for decades, Salesforce is the new kid on the CRM block, and they have been steadily growing in profitability for quite a few years. I’m sure they want to stay that way, and the competition is ferocious and very aggressive. It’s probably why they are now charging people who use Slack but are not Salesforce subscribers.
Here’s Salesforce’s latest quarterly earnings:
Personally, Salesforce always reminded me of the way Apple disrupted the tech industry.
If I had shares in Salesforce, then I expect I would applaud their efforts to coerce thousands of customers to purchase pro plans that are frankly ridiculously expensive (see Adam’s post in Salesforce Buys Slack for $27.7 Billion - #3 by ace). However, I have no interest in investing in a company that treats their existing user-base this way.
I can understand how that’s upsetting and concerning. I think my perspective comes from the fact that I always feel free services are tenuous and can be withdrawn at any time. Of course, the same can happen with paid services but I am particularly hesitant to become too comfortable or reliant on something that’s free.
I started writing something about this but couldn’t really come up with anything to say beyond the facts, which aren’t that interesting.
In essence, the Pro plan is going up by about 8% and the restrictions on the free plans have changed so you can only see 90 days of messages and files instead of 10,000 messages and 5 GB of files. Slack says that the majority of free teams will get access to more messages and files with the new approach, which would seem to suggest that most free teams are using Slack pretty heavily.
The free teams that are impacted are those that have rather low message and file usage, such that they could go for much more than 90 days before notching 10,000 messages or 5 GB of files. At the same time, it’s only important if you want to access messages or files further back than 90 days. It sounds like you fit in that category, so I can see why you’d be upset.
As @jzw noted, I suspect most free teams don’t care that much about their archives because if they did, they’d be better off paying to ensure that the previous limits didn’t hamper their usage.
In our Slack teams, I find the search quite weak and almost never use it. I was ready to be perturbed about the change too, but on reflection, it just won’t make any difference to us either.
It’s also important to note that Slack merely hides older messages and files; it doesn’t delete them. So if you really, really need access to older messages and files, you can always pay for a month’s worth of access to get them.
The larger issue is what responsibility a company has to users who have taken advantage of free plans. Just eliminating the free plan is clearly not OK, and it’s problematic when changes make common previous working methods inaccessible, as happened with Dropbox when it reduced the number of devices supported by the free plan to three. It’s not clear that Slack’s change falls in that category if we agree its claim that the majority of free teams will actually benefit from the change.
And it does simplify matters. I have absolutely no idea how many messages are in my Slack workspaces, and I’m not sure if there’s any way to tell. I know what 90 days means; I have no idea what 10,000 messages means in terms of going back.
Salesforce currently has over 150,000 paid customers, and the vast % of memberships are organizations and corporations. Like Slack, it’s collaborative and team focused. And Salesforce has been successfully integrating Slack into its portfolio of services, as well as building new services within Slack:
And Slack’s original owners continue to work within Salesforce to develop new services:
“The new platform allows Salesforce developers—there are more than 11 million of them—to create functionality that shuttles data from Salesforce’s Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud services into Slack. Along with leveraging a Salesforce automation system called Flow, the platform supports the company’s Apex programming language. But it’s designed for low-code projects, reducing the amount of time and expertise required to build something useful.
“Along with giving developers the ability to use Salesforce Platform to glue together its services, Salesforce is rolling out some of its own Slack apps built with the platform. They include tools for such tasks as sending updates to sales teams, assigning customer service cases to reps, and collaborating on marketing campaigns.”
Any individual, organization or company that will leave because they refuse to pay for Slack or sign up for any of the other services that Salesforce offers will not affect the corporation’s bottom line at all. In fact, the lack of freeloaders will save money for Salesforce/Slack. And along with all the money Salesforce spent to acquire Slack, they do need revenue to keep improving Its services and support.
I have to say that I am a little disappointed by the equanimity, with which people accept this kind of corporate behavior. Salesforce bought up a popular messaging service and are now discarding existing users as “freeloaders” because we are not willing to pay, in my case, over $500 per month to keep in touch with my scientific collaborators. I am extremely suspicious of their claims that the majority of users will benefit. I think those user numbers are probably heavily skewed by a small number of workspaces that have extremely large followings. I consider this a form of asset stripping, with the victims being a large number of not-for-profit groups, who would take years to generate 10K messages, but would value checking what was said on a particular subject a year ago. If we don’t push back, then corporations will continue to treat us with contempt.
Slack still has a free option outside of Salesforce, and they have a mid sized option at $6.60 per month. Slack’s most expensive option, which does not include Salesforce membership, and is aimed is $12.50 per month.
For enterprise, secure and government services, prices will be negotiated.
My guess is all the new Slack add on services Salesforce is creating will probably not be part of the paid stand alone app. And current Slack freeloaders will not have access to any of the new Slack services being developed within Salesforce. And only the the two top tiers of stand alone Slack will have support assistance available.
Those prices are per user, unless I have completely misunderstood their pricing (which is possible). I have a workspace with over 60 users, which would come to over $500 per month after the price increases in September. And please stop using the term freeloader, as if we are all bloodsucking parasites. Free accounts were part of the Slack business model and were what made it a salable commodity in the first place.
Slack offers a free Pro subscription plan for nonprofits. You might want to have a look at that:
Regardless of price, I’m not sure Slack is the right solution for low traffic messaging where looking back to a discussion from last year is important. I would be more likely to use Discourse (the software running TidBITS Talk) for the kind of thing you’re describing.
There’s also Mighty Networks which has a mix of messaging, a group site, and other ‘social’ features, but in a private space for your group. Their lowest cost plan is $33/month for unlimited users.
I appreciate all the suggestions, but Slack had precisely the functionality we needed and it rather misses the point that Salesforce changed the terms of service after buying Slack, almost certainly because they know that this damages the functionality we have relied on for years and will force a few groups to upgrade and other “freeloaders” to leave. Not all companies behave this way, e.g., when Microsoft bought Github. If everyone else is fine with this kind of corporate behavior, then I think we should close this thread.
Before closing the thread, it would be nice to have some discussion of alternatives and migration.
Microsoft Teams is Slack’s biggest competitor. It doesn’t seem to require a Microsoft 365 account for each user, it might only require using a free Microsoft account. Typing in channels appears to be free, the charges come with higher bandwidth activities like videoconferencing.
For a non-proprietary option, Element Communities are made using Matrix. This may be a more techie choice but hopefully only for whoever is in charge of it. They have a Slack migration tool but that may be only for a paid service.
Mattermost is another option that we use in several network operator communities, up until recently you could only use one client per server but that is now finally fixed so you can join multiples.
Like slack it has project management type features being added. Day job uses Element, it works but doesn’t seem to be as feature rich out of the box, but it does potentially have better security but it makes reading on multiple devices a pain - do able but I now refuse to join encrypted channels and tell the originator to set up an alternative one if they want me to be able to read and respond in my time zone :/
I also use slack but none of that is for work stuff - but it helps that everyone is likely to have the client and be using it for something now, less so ~3-4 years ago.
No experience of teams and happy with that - I don’t need another channel in my life :)
This is really the question, isn’t it? What we’re seeing is that the free teams fall into a variety of categories:
In the Moment: Regardless of size, this category includes teams that don’t care about searching, so the change is irrelevant to them, or perhaps a slight win if they want audio/video clips. (Personally, I don’t see much utility there either, so whatever.) They won’t leave or pay.
Highly Active: These teams generate a lot of traffic and care about searching. Slack claims they’re the majority and that 90 days will provide them with more searchable history than 10,000 messages and 5 GB of files. We have no way to evaluate Slack’s claim, but I’d take it a face value and assume at least 51%. They won’t leave or pay because they’re better off than before.
Low Volume: These teams don’t generate much traffic or many files and do care about searching. They might have had a year of searchable archives with 10,000 messages and 5 GB of files, but they’re now limited to 90 days. My suspicion is that few of these teams will pay because they weren’t paying before and were willing to live with the uncertainty of not knowing which messages and files would become inaccessible. Even those that do pay won’t generate much revenue for Slack because they are by definition small. Some will leave, but that won’t save Slack any significant money in terms of resources because again, they’re small.
In the end, I can’t see how this change would increase Slack’s revenues or decrease its expenses in any significant way. The only conclusion I can come to, then, is that Slack felt that simplifying the restrictions of the free account would increase the number of groups that would try Slack, since it’s easy to understand 90 days, whereas there’s no way to know how long any given group will hit 10,000 messages.
The PR mistake on Slack’s part then, was to force this change on existing teams. If Slack had given current teams the option of switching to the new approach or sticking with the the existing restrictions, there would have been no complaints. I don’t have a sense of how hard that might have been within Slack’s infrastructure, but as with any free service (and one which many of us have been using for free for years with no intention of ever paying), there is a point at which the people providing the service get to call the shots.
There’s also Ryver, which starts at $69 per month for 12 users after a 14-day free trial.
That’s an excellent summary of the situation. However, I don’t think they have suffered from adverse PR yet. That could change since the announcement is so recent, but so far I seem to be in a minority in being angered by this.
Today in a free workspace I saw a banner in the app about the change come September 1st. That should get more attention.
I was reading an article (Help Me Help You: A Guide to Asking for Help, it has a lot of good advice for asking for technical assistance regardless of medium), and they mentioned a Software-as-a-Service platform has a Slack workspace for its developer community with 25,000 members. I don’t know how active they are (there’s no individual incentive for people to delete their accounts from a workspace) but because it’s so common for the same questions in any forum to be asked again and again, it would be terrible to lose access to everything beyond 90 days. Yet I can’t imagine any business paying $6.67/user/month for every random person who signs up to access the community workspace.
I’m a member of a community workspace about web accessibility with over 10,000 members. This change is not an issue for it because it’s already on a Pro account. I just checked a UX workspace that has over 20,000 members and it’s also on the Pro tier. How? My understanding is there’s no registered non-profit or secret benefactor for either of these, Slack simply made it so; I guess they decided they were worthwhile communities to exist (possibly also early adopters) and/or it would be bad PR to bump them down to the free tier.
Yes, I’m aware of at least one Slack group that exists simply because someone at Slack wanted it to and was able to convince management to allow it to happen with Pro-level features. That’s very unusual, though.
For anyone who wants to see how many messages and files a free Slack team, click the name of your team in the sidebar.
If you continue to choose Tools > Analytics, you can see how many messages the team had in the last month. Clearly, SlackBITS won’t keep as many messages around in the new world order, which would be an issue if you searched.