What the Slack Sale Means for You

Not much

Key Takeaways

  • Cloud-based software company Salesforce plans to buy communications platform Slack for $27.7 billion.
  • Slack will be integrated into Salesforce’s portfolio of cloud apps.
  • The deal is not expected to drastically change the Slack experience for users.
People wear protective face masks outside Salesforce Tower as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus
Noam Galai / Getty Images

If the phrase "channel surfing" makes you think of Slack before your cable TV package, you may be wondering how you’ll be affected by the recent news that Salesforce intends to buy the popular communications platform.

Cloud software company Salesforce announced its plan to acquire Slack on December 1 in a landmark $27.7 billion deal. But as dramatic as the dollar amount of the deal may be, experts don’t expect it to fundamentally change the Slack experience immediately—or even anytime soon.

"Plenty of people won’t know an acquisition took place," Phil Simon, recognized technology expert and author of books including Slack for Dummies, told Lifewire in a phone interview. He says that while Slack will continue to innovate its product as it has been doing for some time, users can more or less expect the status quo after the sale.

What the Sale Means for Users

Salesforce and Slack are different in many ways, and combining them will provide new functionality for both. Salesforce is a cloud-based software company that provides myriad products for managing customer relationships, while Slack is an app that teams and groups use to share information and messages via different channels. 

Those using Salesforce at work will notice that Slack will be integrated into its products, a move that Salesforce says will help its users make better decisions more quickly by using customer information. But what about those Slack users who have never used Salesforce, let alone heard of it? Well, experts don’t expect the sale to bring much of a change to the core Slack product for the time being. 

"With Salesforce sales power, Slack will finally be able to compete with Microsoft Teams and be adopted by IT teams."

"Slack as the tool that so many people loved is going to stay the same," open source and privacy advocate Stefano Maffulli told Lifewire in an email. "I think that it will become more easily available in companies that already use Salesforce."

Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie also emphasized the increased reach the deal could bring for Slack now that it is owned by Salesforce.

"For Slack, they now have the backing of one of the world's largest software companies, which means they get a major distribution advantage bringing their platform to vastly more customers globally," Levie wrote. "This is almost invariably a great thing for them."

Why Salesforce is Buying Slack

Salesforce is scooping up Slack at a time when the world has gotten used to working from home, often juggling several different platforms like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet to keep in touch with colleagues and friends. 

Many analysts and news outlets have characterized the deal as a way to amp up a rivalry with Microsoft, which notably comes a few months after Slack filed a competition complaint against the well-known technology company in Europe.

"I think that the greatest impact will be on enterprise adoption: With Salesforce sales power, Slack will finally be able to compete with Microsoft Teams and be adopted by IT teams," Maffulli says.

Future of Work

One important aspect of the Slack and Salesforce tie-up is what it signals for the future of work, which appears to be trending toward apps communicating more efficiently and certain platforms providing tools like videoconferencing, messaging, and sharing documents all in one place. In this case, Salesforce users can more closely align data in the cloud with conversations between colleagues. 

"I think this is a pivotal moment and the opportunity to really transform the way that we work so that we’re not as reliant on the physical office, [so] that we can have a digital HQ," Slack’s Stewart Butterfield recently told Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff during the keynote ahead of the latter company’s annual Dreamforce event.

"Slack as the tool that so many people loved is going to stay the same."

Slack and Salesforce are both known for their ability to integrate with a host of other apps, and Simon says he expects that integration to continue. So, while Salesforce will "absolutely" link more closely with Slack, he doesn’t expect Salesforce to insist that Slack users only use its own products. That closed-off or "walled garden" approach is "not the way the world is going," says Simon, who envisions a future where communication between applications is seamless.

This integration is happening on other communication platforms, too. Zoom, for example, announced in October that it’s in the process of creating Zoom apps (known as "Zapps") to integrate the popular video conferencing tool with applications such as Dropbox, Coursera, and—yes—even Slack itself.

So, people may see their offices turning to Slack as a communications tool now that it’s a part of Salesforce. However, many Slack users are unlikely to see a noticeable difference in the product after Salesforce becomes its new owner, other than providing more opportunities to use it with new tools if their employer chooses to do so.

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