Why Do We Have So Many Enterprise Chat Apps?

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Chat apps also mean less in-person interactions.

It seems every time you look up from your monitor, a new chat app has been released. Why are chat apps—especially business-centric ones—having such a big moment?

You’d think that chat apps would be a relatively simple forum for a tech firm to dominate. However, despite lots of effort (and marketing dollars), no one company has managed to become the world’s primary platform for chat. In a consumer context, people tend to rely on whatever their phones and other devices run; for example, there’s iMessage, available on all of Apple’s various platforms and devices.

In the enterprise realm, there’s Slack, which was supposed to “murder” email. While the upstart chat app hasn’t quite accomplished that grandiose aim, it has managed to amass a ton of venture capital, fans, and developer synergy.

Encouraged by Slack’s rise, a number of other companies have plunged into the enterprise-collaboration space. Facebook has its own take on business chat, which hasn’t seen a lot of adoption. Microsoft’s Teams chat app is used by over 125,000 companies worldwide, and enjoys deep links to the Azure cloud. It’s now allowing more access for developers.

If that wasn’t enough competitors in the space, Atlassian recently announced Stride, which cobbles together everything we like about Slack (chat, video, rooms) and adds a bit of project-management service Trello. Thanks to Atlassian’s acquisition of Trello, Stride users can convert conversations into assigned task lists; it’s enterprise-centric, to put it mildly.

All of these business chat platforms offer free options, but scale to meet your needs and user-base. Stride’s free tier loops in everything but video chat, screen sharing, remote desktop control and user management (which are basically pro features). Slack has two paid tiers, and can cost up to four times more than Stride. Microsoft made Teams part of Office 365, which is a paid subscription service.

So what’s behind all these enterprise chat apps? The answer is ecosystem tie-down. Microsoft is the purest example: by limiting Teams to Office 365 customers, it’s looping businesses into its enterprise solutions suite. Stride is also positioned that way, though Atlassian’s other services are optional. Slack does something similar, although it lacks its rivals’ extensive portfolios of homegrown products; rather than lean into its own services, it’s made the chat platform really easy to integrate with third-party services.

Choosing which service is right is no longer about GIFs and threaded conversations; it’s now about what other stuff links to it. It’s also about deciding where you want to spend hours every day collaborating, and which fits your team best.

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