Update, Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET:
Well, that was fast. Shortly after the new feature was announced, Slack said it would immediately remove the ability to include custom messages with out-of-workplace invites out of concerns that the feature could leave users open to abuse and harassment. Jonathan Prince, Slack’s VP of communications and policy, sent Fast Company the following statement:
“After rolling out Slack Connect DMs this morning, we received valuable feedback from our users about how email invitations to use the feature could potentially be used to send abusive or harassing messages. We are taking immediate steps to prevent this kind of abuse, beginning today with the removal of the ability to customize a message when a user invites someone to Slack Connect DMs. Slack Connect’s security features and robust administrative controls are a core part of its value both for individual users and their organizations. We made a mistake in this initial roll-out that is inconsistent with our goals for the product and the typical experience of Slack Connect usage. As always, we are grateful to everyone who spoke up, and we are committed to fixing this issue.”
Slack, the popular workplace messaging app that once cordoned users into discrete, virtual office spaces, is now chasing greater ambitions in becoming a full-fledged, company-agnostic communication network.
Starting today, any Slack user will be able to direct-message any other user—whether corporate-affiliated or not. The feature, called Connect DMs, requires users to first send an invite to a recipient’s email address; if it’s accepted, the recipient then becomes a contact within the app, allowing for future back-and-forths with ease.
Billed as a way for team members to chat with third-party vendors or customers—thus moving conversations “out of siloed email threads”—the feature also furthers a subtle campaign from Slack to become the go-to hub for all work-related exchanges. Whereas email, SMS, or LinkedIn have traditionally dominated as top modes of communication for professionals, Slack seems to be challenging that hierarchy with its new offering. Connect DMs also gives Slack an edge against its major competitor, Microsoft Teams, which offers a similar function.
“When someone opens up their phone,” Slack’s VP of product, Ilan Frank, told Protocol, “if they’re connecting with their friends, they click on Facebook or WhatsApp. If they’re connecting with someone they work with, regardless of where that person works, they should be clicking on Slack.”
However, it’s worth noting that the feature could also increase pressure on company employees to be always “logged on,” a weary trend that has worsened during the global pandemic. After the nation transitioned to working from home last year, many reported working longer hours, losing work-life balance, and experiencing more feelings of stress and burnout.