Slack comes to Linux as a snap

Slack’s ambition to become the default, go-to place for employees chat to each other and link into hundreds of other applications to get work done is getting one more step up today by becoming available on a new platform. From today, Slack will be available as a Snap, an application package that’s available across a range of open-source-based Linux environments.

This opens the app up to a wide, new group of people: there are “tens of millions” of desktop users across multiple Linux distributions, according to Jamie Bennett, VP of Engineering, Devices & IoT at Canonical. (As a point of comparison, Slack in September 2017 said it had over 6 million daily active users, with 2 million of them paying.)

In addition to Ubuntu (which is developed by Canonical), this will open Slack up to users of Linux-based services like ArchLinux, OpenSUSE, Solus, Debian, KDE Neon and others.

As you might know, Slack was originally conceived as a service for the developers of TinySpeck, the startup that eventually became Slack. While it’s been working for the past year to expand its user numbers with a push into the larger enterprise segment, the alignment with the developer community using Linux is a potentially strong and natural fit.

“As snaps are designed to work across desktop, IoT devices and the cloud, the potential for snaps that may have applications across all or some of these are potentially even greater, as well as making a developer’s life easier by simplifying the process and requiring only one version to be created,” Bennett said in an email interview.

Slack built the snap itself using Canonical’s Snapcraft tool, Bennett said, standard with what all developers use to create their snaps. Asked who approached whom, he said that the app was built by Slack itself in response to requests from the Linux community. “Even though Slack was only launched 4 years ago, they’ve grown very quickly and have seen demand across all platforms including that from Linux users,” he said.

“As a result, it is important for Slack to provide choice and cater to all users hence why building on Linux is important to them and they are regularly engaged with the wider Linux community.”

Snaps — and the Snappy package manager that run them — first launched in 2016 and there are now thousands of apps in the Snapcraft store, which speaks to how the Linux community continues to try to open the platform to be a little more mainstream. Spotify launched as a snap in December, and there is also the VLC video player, email clients like Hiri and Mailspring, Nextcloud for file sync and the Brave and Chromium browsers; and there are “more high profile snaps in the pipeline to come in the near future,” he added.

Among collaboration and developer-friendly tools, is on the platform, as are HerokuDocker, Amazon Web Services CLI and others.

The service today is launching in beta, but the idea will be that in using the Snap format, it will be able to push updates automatically to its users.