Threaded messaging is coming to Slack

In an interview with Walt Mossberg, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said threaded messaging — perhaps one of the service’s most important missing components — is finally coming.

Butterfield told Mossberg that Slack had been using threading internally for months while testing what the best version of the tool would be for the service, which will hopefully come out in the next quarter. Details are, of course, still sparse about how threaded messaging will look like. But it’s in Slack’s DNA to build simple collaboration services that look more like consumer tools than the standard-issue enterprise ones.

Adding threaded messaging, an important component in other services like Yammer, Citrix’s Podio and Convo, would level the playing field between collaboration services — and give Slack an opportunity to gobble up a much wider part of the field. Slack, as-is, is more like a tool for quickly building work-centric chat rooms with direct messaging integrated into it. Threaded comments would bring the service to another level, helping it become a more important part of the workflow and upending existing services.

Slack has attracted a lot of attention in Silicon Valley because of its dead-simple interface and tools. Adding additional tools, of course, carries the risk of feature-creep. But threaded messages are a critical component to other enterprise collaboration tools, and the service is going to need to find ways to usurp those services in order to attract new clients. And that includes attracting clients outside of Silicon Valley — where the company will have to find growth if it wants to become the truly massive business investors are betting on.

Slack is already one of the hottest enterprise startups in Silicon Valley, valued at $3.8 billion in its most recent financing round. In April last year, Slack was valued at $2.8 billion as part of its financing round, and the service has 2.7 million users. The promise of Slack is partly to reduce the clutter of email by making it easier to not only message other Slack users directly, but provide an extensive history of conversation that’s easily searchable.

There’s also a whole new ecosystem of third-party applications that are coming to the service in the form of bots and other third-party apps, in which the company also plans to invest, that will populate Slack’s own third-party app directory. All these additions, taken together, help the service become more powerful in the context of enterprise — which explains why Slack has attracted so much investor interest.

And this would help the service look less like a chat room and more like a true enterprise collaboration service — which could help attract even larger enterprise clients that rely on tools like threaded messages to get work done. As Slack picks up those larger enterprise clients, it can continue to scale its business, and thus invest in new tools and hire additional talent.