9 Aug

What FB’s Workplace Update Means for Slack and MSFT Teams

WRITTEN BY Mike Sonnenberg

For the most part since its launch in late 2016, Facebook Workplace has basically been the Facebook social network experience repackaged for commercial users. However, in April, Facebook (FB) provided a sneak peek into the design and functionality changes it had planned for its Facebook Workplace enterprise product. It’s been making visual as well as under-the-hood changes to the team collaboration app ever since.

While Microsoft Teams (MSFT) seems to have rendered its look and feel from Slack (WORK), Facebook Workplace’s redesign distinguishes it from the competition. The development certainly makes the three-way competition more interesting.

What’s different about the new Workplace?

For Facebook users, the notification area’s being in the top right corner may not be the most intuitive. While users can make do on a free social networking platform, paid corporate customers may expect better. The new design addresses the notification issue by having a dedicated notification area that spans the height of the screen.

Another area in which Facebook Workplace distinguishes itself from Slack is the clear difference between group posts (“channels” in Slack parlance) and group chats. The new design keeps meaningful updates separate from distracting group chats. It also has built-in live streaming for corporate events.

How is the Slack competition playing out?

The redesign comes at a time when Facebook, Slack, and Microsoft are battling it out in the enterprise collaboration space. Last month, Slack launched a major update to its web and desktop versions in order to make them faster. Microsoft is focusing on integrating Microsoft Teams with other MSFT family products. While Slack has an advantage over the competition in terms of third-party integrations, Microsoft recently announced that Microsoft Teams had 13 million daily active users—probably the highest among the three.

The three products are diverging in their approaches, making it less about numbers and more about the segments they’re targeting. Microsoft seems to be focusing on Fortune 100 companies, listing 91 out of the 100 companies as users of Teams. Slack, on the other hand, is a favorite among startups that work on Macs and are happy with Google Suite (GOOG). Slack even has a partnership with Google to offer the deep integration of Google products into its platform. Interestingly, Slack uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud, even though Microsoft and Google are competing in the cloud space.

Long way to go

Touted to be email killers, team collaboration apps are still in their infancy. All three players seem to have long runways with plenty of cash and patience to play the waiting game. However, Microsoft Teams and Facebook Workplace could be at an advantage simply because they already have their moats built. Slack stock gained 2.5% yesterday to close at $31.5—still below its IPO price.

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