Custom status messages are coming to Slack

AFK, BRB, in a coffee meeting or what not — Slack, with its constant stream of communication, is probably not the the first place you’d drop an away message or status update to keep people informed of what you’re up to.

All that is probably something you’d throw in some other threaded internal communications product that sits perpetually at the top of a page or is easily searchable. That’s probably especially true as companies get larger and communication channels get more out of hand. But Slack is hoping to figure out some way to introduce that kind of employee interaction into a product that could quickly devolve into message mayhem in a way that won’t get lost in a stream of messages (or GIFs, assuming they’re not banned in your channels).

To do that, Slack is adding its own flavor of status updates and away messages. Users can hover over an emoji next to a name to get an idea of what an employee is up to — such as getting their teeth drilled at a dentist or out at a retreat. They can add a 100-character description of why they can’t respond to a message with an emoji of their choice (like an airplane if the Wi-Fi isn’t working or something to that extent).

Perhaps more interesting in this update is that Slack is also opening the feature to third-party developers to automatically set statuses. In a blog post, Slack pointed to a feature that allows Zenefits to automatically set an away message when someone is logging vacation through Zenefits. This is going to give developers yet another touch-point into the platform that is increasingly hot in Silicon Valley but still has to breach into the real world of massive companies that may be sticking to more traditional internal communications channels.

Slack earlier this year introduced threaded messages in an attempt to give Slack a more persistent and permanent home for certain conversations. Status updates, to some extent, are also not too dissimilar — they exist as some semi-permanent home for communication of an employee’s current situation in a static way to coworkers. Slack, it would seem, is trying to become more of a home page of internal communication instead of a messaging client. That’s going to be important going forward as it tries to woo people away from existing products.

Slack, which at times may seem apprehensive about introducing product updates, seems to also be adding a good deal of incremental features in the past few weeks. Earlier this week it further opened up tools to developers that allows them to make Slack bots more interactive with drop-down menus.