before Times, we used to huddle together in real life. Without the format of meetings or the intellectual rigor of brainstorming, huddles are spontaneous, productive, and (mostly) athletic, and the workplace is the equivalent of a basketball team needing pauses to strategize. A run occurs when a colleague hangs out at your desk and asks for a quick extension to five minutes. We crowd around the water cooler, or in the kitchen. Then 2020 came, well, we all know what happened next.
Last June, popular workplace chat app Slack launched Huddles, an audio-only feature designed to replicate real-life events. It’s a direct hanging space that can be easily launched from a Slack channel or direct message. According to Slack, it has been very popular. This is the fastest feature adoption in Slack’s nine-year history. Nearly 44% of Slack’s paying enterprise customers use Huddle on a weekly basis, which equates to a total of 243 million weekly minutes. Most huddles only last 10 minutes, which may not please the gods of engagement, but will bring some efficiency – like those IRL huddles.
Now, Slack is adding more bells and whistles to Huddles. At its annual conference on the future of work, Slack announced a revamped version of Huddle, claiming to transform the humble Huddle into a “shared office space.” The most important new feature in the vision for the future of work is… video chat.
When the new Huddles launch in the fall, they will include video chat, just like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Slack has offered one-on-one and group video calling since 2016, but the feature wasn’t easy to find; by moving it to Huddles, Slack hopes it can capitalize on some of the momentum these audio chats have gathered. Videos in Huddles will include a blur background option, which is standard for video conferencing applications. Screen sharing will soon be an option in Huddles as well, and multiple people will be able to share their screens at the same time (which sounds confusing if we’re being honest).
Users can also trigger Slack “reacji” — emojis, effects, and stickers — that float across the screen during video chats. Live chat logs that occur during Huddle and any links or documents shared are automatically saved in the channel or message thread that started Huddle.
This is indeed Slack’s Zoomification, even though Slack seems to be allergic to Zoom. Noah Desai Weiss, Slack’s senior vice president of product, said video conferencing serves “a large number of important use cases,” but the new Huddles are different. “We’re really focused on an area that we think is underserved, that is, how do you enable a small team to actually work together in a shared digital space?”
very fair. Slack Huddles exists as a feature Inside Slack, which means you can’t use Huddles to send Zoom-like links or invite them to scheduled video meetings. Huddles also limits the number of participants — 50 in the commercial version of Slack, or just two for free Slack users.