What's in store for Slack? Bots and apps that interact like humans

The company that lets businesses build corporate chatrooms offers a sneak peek at what new features are heading to the fast-growing communications platform.

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The Slack communications platform.

Image: Slack

The company behind the communications platform Slack revealed its product roadmap yesterday, talking about plans to make Slack apps more useful and to conduct experiments with video calling.

Slack provides a platform for organizations to create group chat channels, as well as supporting messages from bots and integrating with custom-built apps. Slack's userbase has grown steadily since its launch at the end of 2013 and today encompasses 2.7 million active users.

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April Underwood: "We think the future of the platform is not just about conversation and messaging".

Image: Colin Baldwin

Slack has more than 300 apps, which interact with users via messages on the platform and handle everything from expense reporting to managing stand-up meetings. April Underwood, Slack's VP of product, said the company wants to make these apps more interactive, by adding support for buttons and other simple UI features to Slack messages. For example, if messages supported buttons, an expense-reporting app that pulls details from photos of receipts could allow the user to confirm each purchase.

"We think the future of the platform is not just about conversation and messaging, but about... being able to interact with the apps you use at work, like you would another human," she said, speaking at an event in London.

Slack also recently began rolling out support for voice calls to desktop PCs, Android and iOS devices -- and Underwood said it is considering introducing video calls.

Text chats should also become simpler, with Slack planning to introduce support for threaded conversations. Underwood said the feature should make it easier to reply to old messages and reduce confusion caused by people talking across each other in Slack channels. Additionally, Slack is also planning to simplify the options for formatting text in messages.

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For search, the communications platform already has various features that allow users to narrow searches for people and information within channels but many users don't know about them, said Underwood, adding that Slack is trying to make these features easier to discover.

A 'Do Not Disturb' mode was recently added to the platform, based on feedback, and Underwood said the company is considering other options for blocking distractions on Slack, including an out-of-office responder.

As larger organisations start using Slack -- almost four out of five Fortune 100 companies use the platform, Underwood said -- it is researching tools that would allow admins to more easily manage multiple Slack channels, as well as how large organisations can better educate users about getting the most out of Slack.

Slack's pricing for Enterprise is yet to be officially announced, although Underwood said the company is aiming for about $32 per seat, adding this figure could change based on feedback from early adopters.

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