If Facebook Messenger, with 900 million users and more than 11,000 bots, has won the most attention as a platform for consumer-oriented bots, then Slack is out front when it comes to business-oriented bots. Speaking today at MobileBeat 2016, the company’s head of platform described how Slack’s desire “to be the place where work happens” has guided its efforts in creating what has become a veritable ecosystem around its bot platform.
“When we think about what’s next for Slack, we think about making your life simpler and more productive … so message buttons is really just the beginning,” said Jason Shellen, head of platform at Slack.
Unlike consumer bots, which are often designed for one-to-one communications between a customer and a business, bots on Slack are usually for collaborative, group conversations. The company reports that 77 of the Fortune 100 companies use Slack, with three million daily active users on the platform an average of more than two hours each weekday. These users have access to more than 500 apps in the Slack directory, and in June the company introduced what it calls buttons, which can trigger an action from connected apps with a single click within Slack.
The company has 13 buttons integrated with apps like those from human resources provider Greenhouse, travel site Kayak, and project management tool Trello. With a single tap, these buttons enable users to perform tasks like track job applicants, book flights, manage expense reports, and create and track task boards, all as part of the normal workday conversations taking place on Slack. The number of buttons will soon increase: A few weeks ago, the company released an API so that anyone can build a button.
Shellen explained that the 12 partners who built buttons for the June launch got involved through a combination of inbound interest and his team reaching out. Slack’s partners understood that these changes to the user interface — buttons — greatly improved the overall experience with their apps, Shellen said.
Slack’s buttons represent an overall trend of technology and data moving outward, ever closer to the user. “We haven’t seen yet just how far this will go” Shellen said and suggested that future app and button integrations could be in areas like personal health, medical, and construction. “I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface yet,” he predicted.
Slack’s focus on collaboration also underpins the ecosystem the company is creating with its developer community. This spring, Slack publicly released its platform roadmap and announced the creation of an $80 million developer fund designed to spur the creation of more apps and bots. Starting June 21, anyone can now build buttons, thanks to the API.
Looking ahead, Shellen expects to see “more daring, more interesting, larger, and more diverse apps” on Slack. But, he added, “those that bring actionable data closer to users are my favorite.”
Here’s Slack’s video for the launch of its buttons:
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