Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's not so pleasant when the mimicry is performed by an 800lb gorilla who wants to eat your lunch.
Microsoft this week announced that its answer to messaging platform Slack, Microsoft Teams, now has 20 million daily active users (DAU), making it almost twice the size of Slack. Teams has achieved that in just two years since its launch, thanks in part to being bundled with Office 365.
Slack has argued that DAUs don't reflect user engagement and says users from its paid customers spend more than nine hours a day connected to Slack, and more than 90 minutes per day actively using it.
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Microsoft defines DAUs as "as "the maximum daily users performing an intentional action in the last 28-day period across the desktop client, mobile client and web client".
Needless to say, competition is fierce in the enterprise chat space but Teams is an existential threat for Slack, whereas for Microsoft it is just a part of a much bigger pie in Office 365 and Microsoft 365.
In a Twitter post titled 'ok boomer' – a reference to younger generations who feel ripped off by the Baby Boomer generation – Slack draws attention to the similarities between its own ad for the Slack Frontiers conference in April and later promotional videos, and Microsoft's 'The Art of Teamwork' ad, which was published in November.
Nonetheless, both videos depict balls traveling along grooves, intersecting at various points to create something bigger. In other words, teamwork enabled by collaboration software.
Soon after Microsoft launched Teams, Slack placed an ad in The New York Times congratulating Microsoft and said it was "genuinely excited to have some competition".
At the same time, it stressed that Microsoft can't create something people really love by making a "big list of Slack's features and simply checking those boxes".
Slack's promotional videos – and to an extent Microsoft's November ad – reflect Slack's message at the time: "We've spent tens of thousands of hours talking to customers and adapting Slack to find the grooves that match all those human quirks. The internal transparency and sense of shared purpose that Slack-using teams discover is not an accident. Tiny details make big differences."
Megan Quinn, general partner of Spark Capital, an early investor in Slack, joined Slack's campaign to question the substance of Microsoft's DAU numbers.
After Microsoft announced its 20-million DAU milestone, she retweeted a post from October stating that "not all DAUs are created equal". The post included an image of the top five rising 'related queries' for Microsoft Teams on Google Trends. The results don't look flattering for Microsoft.
Google Trends shows that interest in Teams has steadily increased over the past year. However, the top four rising 'related queries' for Microsoft Teams currently are: How to get rid of Microsoft Teams; how to disable Microsoft Teams; Microsoft Teams keeps reinstalling; and stop Microsoft Teams from opening.