Examining Slack’s New Free Plan Restrictions and Motivations

Originally published at: Examining Slack’s New Free Plan Restrictions and Motivations - TidBITS

Slack has overhauled the limits on its free plan, claiming that the majority of active free teams will have access to more message and file history than before. But your mileage may vary—and some people feel betrayed. Adam Engst explores the topic and muses about what we should be able to expect from free services.

One alternative not mentioned: Rock

Pretty much agree with Adam’s assessment. If data rolling off after 90 days doesn’t matter, Slack is a good solution.

Depending on what you want to do, Apple Messages might work. Encrypted comms, support for various rich media, ability to create named Group Chats that can have custom icons and be pinned to the “top” (like a Channel), integration with Facetime, etc. And, you can handle messages on your Apple Watch! You probably prefer all users to have Apple devices, but you can’t beat the price. —Just keep an eye on how much data you use, since Messages is often the culprit when people run out of storage on iPhones and iPads. And in that case you can either roll off your data at 30 days or a year, or get a larger iCloud storage plan.

I fall into that category—I expect certain things from Apple, Dropbox, Google, Slack, and many other companies that provide me with essential services for free.

I don’t expect companies that offer me some “for free” to continue to do so forever; so I tend to think about how I use such services and don’t make myself strongly dependent on them.

Adam mentioned Apple. I tend to not think of Apple as offering free services. Although Apple doesn’t put an explicit price tag on each of its software offerings, the software that comes with its hardware products is there to help sell the hardware, and as such isn’t really free. Generally you can’t find those specific apps anywhere else except on Apple hardware. You buy a Mac, iPad, or iPhone and you get Photos. Is it free? Well, you had to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to purchase a device on which you can use it.

If Apple were to suddenly start charging extra for Mail, Messages, Photos, etc., I think I would feel cheated, because I feel like I paid for those products when I bought my Apple devices. If my Mac had come bare of any software, except for macOS, I wouldn’t have bought it.


I think there’s one positive thing you missed in your comments, which overall I agree with. We have two family Slack channels that we use much like FB’s groups but without all the bad that comes with FB. We share many photos and some videos and reach the 5GB limit regularly, at which point Slack starts blocking new uploads. I have to go back and delete files to make room for new ones and Slack does not make this easy. I found a third-party plug-in that helped by allowing deletion of 50 files (e.g. images) at a time. If the 90 day limit automatically cleans out old files then it will be a big improvement over the previous policy. Nobody expects Slack to archive our photos.

Unfortunately, this change hit one of my teams like a whammy. We have a large, active Slack Channel for a diverse group of Higher ed instructors. We’ve been on slack for several years and its a place for a major exchange of ideas. We don’t need the storage per se, but we use it for a ton of networking and many of us use it for historical searching for connections, content, etc. We have over 1600 members of the channel. Even with the non profit discount and assuming that only 160 of our members are active it would cost us almost $20k for the paid plan. And we’re not a formal organization (we have a non-profit we’re associated with).

I think we’re going to try to stay on the free plan and see how it goes, but we definitely constantly have new people joining and searching for things. So i’m thinking we’re going to have to build some file repositories somewhere. This one has been rough.

We transitioned from Google Plus circles a few years ago and are afraid if we transition again (say to Discord) that we’ll face this again in a few years.

I’m not sure what you’re seeing, but I’ve never seen Slack block uploads. I think it just warns me every so often that we won’t be able to access the older files. From my family Slack group, which has 6 GB of files.

I wonder how other options like the ever popular MS Teams stack-up in comparison? Could you export and use those without as many drawbacks?

This is most unfortunate and we are looking for another solution. Losing the memory of the discussions, some of which carry important information that will need to be retrieved later is a deal-breaker in both literal and figurative senses. Yes, a deal is exactly what it was and they’re now breaking it with retroactive implications.

The lesson not only is “do NOT trust the word of slack corp.”, but be very cautious about any web services that promise anything, whether stated or implied. Too bad, as this also penalizes the good citizens out there that have confidence in their business models that have a ‘free’ component and stay true to their word. We discussed paying for the new service and interestingly, the consensus was that most were willing, but not with this outfit and they seem less than trustworthy.

If we don’t find a suitable replacement right away, we’ll just back up our data to google and switch back to texting and emailing until something else comes along, and at least appears to be honest to the commitments.

To be sure, this is not an atypical move from short term thinking “business analysts” that are motivated to receive glowing performance reviews from their managers. You can bet they put together bright and colorful powerpoint to show record profits, etc. but usually omit the experimental nature of throwing curve balls at users. Bosses like to see (and eagerly believe) graphs that go “up and to the right”. Good luck with your experiment, but I don’t trust you anymore.

My group is voting with their feet.