Slack, the business communication tool and tech darling, has begun rolling out voice calling to users today, reports TechCrunch. The new tool, called "Calls," allows any Slack user to start a private call or conference call with any other Slack user or channel. Slack has previously integrated calling features into its service via third-party solutions like Skype and Google Hangouts, but as TechCrunch notes "those required a separate installation and were quite clunky by comparison" to Slack’s new Calls feature.
To start using Slack Calls, a team’s administrator simply has to enable the feature in the Team Settings configuration. Once that is done users will see a new phone icon at the top of all threads and channels. Click the icon to begin a call. A little fun feature about Slack’s Calls is that they’ve built emoji support into them. While talking you can send emojis, which will show up on the screen of the person you are talking to, so you can convey how you feel about something visually (just remember your Slack etiquette). Additional users can be added to existing calls as well.
"Our mission at Slack is to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive," Slack’s VP Of Product April Underwood said in a statement. "Voice calls are a valuable form of team communication, and so a natural fit for Slack, and why we’re already seeing great usage of third-party apps that offer calling options. For customers who already use services like Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and BlueJeans, it’s easy to initiate a variety of calling features from within Slack, but for customers who need a simple solution for voice calls with members of their Slack team, this new feature will make Slack more useful."
TechCrunch notes that voice calling was one of the most requested features from Slack’s 2.3 million daily users and says Slack has confirmed that right now the new Calls feature has been rolled out to less than 50% of those users, but that should change quickly. To use Calls, make sure you’ve downloaded the latest version of the software.
As for those hoping for video calls, Slack has confirmed that is coming as well, though they haven’t said if we can expect the feature in 2016 or not. Slack acquired screen sharing firm Screenhero in 2015 for its video calling technology.