Atlassian’s HipChat is switching up its monetization strategy a bit — and mostly for the better: instead of offering small teams with up to five members access to the service for free, it is now offering a free plan with the same features and no user limits.
The free plan does have a few other constraints, however. File storage is capped at 5GB (which should be enough for most teams) and you can only search the last 25,000 messages.
Users who want access to the service’s recently launched screen sharing tool and one-to-one video capabilities will have to sign up for the HipChat Plus plan for $2/user/month. The company launched these new features two weeks ago and at the time, it already had announced that these would always be paid features. As HipChat co-founder Pete Curley told me last week, HipChat users are already spending about 13,000 minutes per day in one-on-one video chats.
“As soon as there is any pricing change, people get very nervous,” Curley said, but with this update, the company wants to remove the barriers to entry for teams. To sign up for the free plan, users won’t have to worry about credit cards, invoicing and expense reports, after all. Some IT departments may not like this, but this definitely gives employees an easy way to route around internal paperwork when they want to start evaluating HipChat.
He also admitted that many teams just use free consumer tools like Skype for their internal messaging. He expects that having this unlimited free plan will get many of those users to try out the company’s product now, especially given that it’s a product specifically designed for team chats.
Atlassian acquired HipChat two years ago and since then, the company tells me, the team has almost doubled in size and the service has now pushed more than two billion messages to its users and is on a pretty nice growth curve. Two years ago, it was at just over 140 million messages and the team passed the first billion in September 2013.
Curley expects that this move will bring HipChat to a large number of new users. “We want to get as many teams on it as possible,” Curley said and noted that this is pretty much in line with Atlassian’s overall strategy. Once a small group of users in a company starts using its free services, it become a lot easier to convert them into paying customers.