Owen WilliamsFormer TNW employee
Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.
Slack has been quietly building out conference calling for its tool since it acquired Screenhero in 2015. Today, it’s officially launched the conference calling feature so you can jump in a call in just a few seconds.
The new ‘Calls’ feature is now in beta and can be enabled for your entire team if you’re invited. All you’ll need is the latest Slack app, which was released last week, or the Web interface: Calls uses WebRTC so there’s no additional plugin required.
Once you’re on the beta, a phone button appears in each channel as well as inside your individual direct messages with your team.
When you hit that button it posts an instant conference call in your channel that anyone can join in with a single click and you’re thrown into the call in just a few seconds.
It’s quite amazing how little friction there is to actually getting on the call — rather than messing around with Skype or some other service, you’re just thrown right into the call with high quality audio without any messing around with a separate app.
One nice touch comes across from Slack’s messaging counterpart — you can send an emoji reaction in a call, which pops up on your profile photo.
You’re able to have an one to one call with anyone on your team in a direct message, or jump on a call with up to 15 people in a single channel. Calls are limited to voice only right now, but it’s expected Slack will add video calling in the future.
To enable calls for your own team you’ll need to be included on the beta which is currently rolling out, but if your admin heads to this URL they can check if it’s available already. Turning it on enables it for everyone on your team immediately and adds a phone button throughout Slack.
There is one catch right now: it doesn’t work on mobile yet, but the company says it’ll be available soon.
As Slack continues taking over your office in a big way, this could be perceived as a significant move to muscle out the competition like Google Hangouts, Skype and GoToMeeting.
With more than 2 million people using the service every day, it’s a legitimate threat to those incumbents.
Slack, for its part, says that’s not the case: “Our mission at Slack is to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive. 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.”
Skype, Hangouts and others will still work, but Slack’s implementation could quickly outpace them. When you can get an instant call, without any hassle, right inside your chat tool that your team already spend all day inside, that’s a compelling sell — and a reason to stop using other services.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.