Slack today announced the launch of Connect, a way for up to 20 organizations to communicate in a single Slack channel. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said Connect has been under development for four years. Slack Connect is rolling out for paying customers now, and may be made available in some capacity for the unpaid tier of Slack in the future. Channels are a central part of the Slack experience and are intended to bring people together to chat, share files, and do other things for a particular project or topic.

Connect launches with the ability to direct-message people in a channel, but additional features will be introduced in the future, including the ability to send direct messages to more people from different organizations. A calendar integration will allow participants in a group channel to scan the calendars of people from participating groups and find a time that works for everyone.

The news comes a day after Microsoft made Teams available for personal use among friends and family.

Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua said in a virtual press conference with reporters today that Connect will sync with company-specific security standards, and that data access goes away after an organization leaves a channel. Enterprise key management for security when using Connect will be made available this summer.

VB Transform 2020 Online - July 15-17. Join leading AI executives: Register for the free livestream.

“If a customer is sharing a channel with another organization and the other organization’s people have visibility into data in the channel that’s been provided by your organization and you revoke your keys, that data becomes invisible to the members of that organization,” Slack chief security officer Larkin Ryder said in a Connect launch video.

The Slack app for team and organization communication introduced shared channels in the past to allow two organizations to work in a shared channel, but Connect is made to bring enough people into a channel to make email unnecessary. To help people who must use email for work or have no Slack account, the company introduced emailing messages to channels last year.

Connect may also be used to grow integrations and automate workflows between organizations, Slack VP Ilan Frank said during the virtual press event. “Each side has access control for the application that they install, and they determine what the other side has access to as far as being able to call a workflow, so the installation of the app and the configuration of that is all done on either side of the channel,” he said.

Connect launches with a 20-organization limit but will grow beyond that capacity in the future, Yehoshua said.