Slack launches Actions, which could make it easier for users to share Slack data with third-party apps

Launch partners for Slack Actions include Atlassian, Asana, Zendesk, and Hubspot. (Slack Image)

Slack’s greatest potential as an enterprise collaboration company will come if it can convince more companies to use its platform for more than messaging and GIFs. It plans to take what could be another step in that direction Tuesday with the release of some new capabilities for developers at its first-ever developer conference.

Developers will now be able to build links between Slack messages and their own apps that will appear as menu choices in the pop-up bubble at the end of a Slack message, which currently only allows you to take actions within Slack. The new feature, called Actions, will be open to Slack developers later this week but is launching Tuesday at Slack’s Spec conference with examples from popular workplace apps like Asana, Jira, and Hubspot, among others.

(Slack GIF)

There have been ways to move data from Slack to other apps with slash commands, but the company thinks Actions will lead to much greater usage of these message-sharing features, said Bear Douglas, head of developer advocacy at Slack. Slash commands warm the heart of engineers, but non-technical people don’t necessarily want to bother with them, and Slack believes developers will get more engagement with their apps by using the new Actions features, she said.

“We want to show people that it’s possible to build integrations that improve people’s lives at work,” Douglas said. Slack’s Milena Talavera, senior engineering manager, will be at our Cloud Tech Summit on June 27th talking in a bit more detail about how Slack makes it all work behind the scenes.

Slack also plans to roll out a new tool for developers called Workplace Apps, which will allow company administrators to point new hires toward their own lineup of frequently used or required Slack apps when setting up their new computers. And Block Kit, another new tool, allows developers to add visual elements to their text messages in hopes of making the at-times jarring experience of receiving a Slack message or notification just a little more pleasant.

An overview of Slack Actions with Asana. (Slack Image)

After years of enduring horribly designed software at work, tech workers flocked to Slack when it first arrived in 2013. The app has gained followers outside of tech organizations and Silicon Valley in the intervening years, with over 8 million daily active users as of a few weeks ago, 3 million of which are on teams paying for extra features.

As long as paid usage keeps growing, Slack’s opportunity to turn into a company at the heart of the modern workplace could become reality, and the company has raised $841 million at a valuation just over $5 billion to chase that possibility. Microsoft made it clear it didn’t plan to cede this territory with the launch of Teams last year, and Atlassian, makers of the Jira tool used in Slack’s new Actions feature, also launched Stride last year.

With the developer conference, Slack is following a path set by Box and Dropbox, encouraging developers to build useful apps that increase usage and time spent on the service. Around 94 percent of teams paying Slack to use the product use apps or integrations of some type, Slack plans to announce later on Tuesday.