Developers

Celebrating five years of Slack platform

The growth of a platform and its community

Author: Taylor SingletaryDecember 10th, 2020Illustration by Abbey Lossing

Five years ago, Slack introduced the ability to pull your favorite tools into a Slack conversation. Today, millions of daily active users unlock exponential value from bringing their work into Slack, thanks to the developers who built the Slack apps that fuel this kind of integrated work.

We were not yet a true platform, but we did have a useful collection of developer tools and APIs: an easy way to send messages with webhooks, basic chatbot functionality, slash commands, and 67 Web API methods that allowed remote procedure calls to retrieve data from and enact change within Slack workspaces.

Developers like you showed us the way

You accomplished powerful things with these limited features, creating sophisticated integrations, building businesses, and unlocking more productivity for Slack users.

Integrating software made Slack your team’s command center, where information from people, systems and tools came together in one place. Sometimes those integrations simply made things more fun.

ChatOps found a welcome home in Slack for the more technically-minded while simultaneously making the art form with roots in IRC more accessible—almost a spectator sport for everyone across a company that wanted to watch deployment orchestrations or incident resolutions in real time.

Inspired by this, we wanted to bring that same ethos and capability to all teams. Which other business processes could be streamlined through chat-oriented experiences?

Piloting a platform

First, we launched Slack apps and the Slack App Directory—a place to showcase a collection of integrations to our rapidly growing customer base. We gave you the necessary building blocks to improve people’s working lives and generate business along the way.

The Slack App Directory launched with 150 apps. Today, you’ll find over 2,500 apps ready to install.

From the start, partnering with you was part of our path to platform success. Even our documentation started as a friendly conversation among an audience with shared goals.

Engaging the enterprise

Meanwhile, Slack was iterating on a more advanced offering for larger organizations, Enterprise Grid, fueling major user growth and an even greater number of developers building internal-only custom apps.

Today, people are collectively using more than 795,000 apps on Slack built by the 885,000 active developers on our platform.

We’ve seen increased demand for integrations from non-technical teams, and our platform mission has expanded to offer no-code business process automation.

Building is fun. Sharing what you’ve built with your team is fun. Turns out, making others more productive is a goal that we share with users, builders and developers alike.

How we’ve grown together

This vision guides us as we prioritize new features and create new app surfaces in Slack.

An abbreviated product roadmap from 2019

Unsurprisingly, exactly zero developers are excited to implement an end-to-end OAuth flow for personal app installation. So one of our first platform features improved the onboarding experience for all developers: a simple interface to install your app and retrieve the tokens you need to make your code work.

Useful and interactive apps

Guru’s Slack app before and after Block Kit, enabling massive UX upgrades

Remote procedure calls and real-time event delivery

  • We have more than 230 Web API methods now, allowing you to do everything from scheduling messages to changing your custom status to listing members in a conversation.
  • Receiving Slack events is crucial to building interactive experiences, and our Events API is our subscription-based delivery engine that leaves the days of the RTM API’s firehose behind.
  • Consolidating the many approaches to receiving events, interactions and slash command invocations, Socket Mode is the friendliest way to begin developing and resolves years of corporate firewall workarounds.

Workflow Builder

We’re serious about making automation easy for non-developers. In 2018, we acquired Missions, which now powers Workflow Builder, a tool for anyone to automate tasks inside and outside of Slack without writing any code.

Slack Community

Slack had a developer community before we had a platform, but in recent years we more mindfully grew the breadth and spotlighted the value. The Slack Community now boasts more than 8,000 members and over 90 chapters spanning 39 countries. Besides the joy and camaraderie, cultivating this community brings us new insights and direct feedback about our platform.

The many faces of Slack Community

Tools for developers

Steadily, our developer relations team created and maintained an official collection of tools, libraries and SDKs to assist developers.

In 2019, we launched Bolt, an opinionated, event-driven framework for rapidly building interactive Slack apps. Today we offer Bolt in JavaScript, Java and Python.

Building on Slack is now a marketable skill! We launched our certification program in 2019, and it’s now broadly available as an online course.

Thank you

These past five years brought monumental change to the way we work together. It’s stunning to see our vision power smoother automation, tooling, and a bit of fun.

Thank you to those who’ve been with us from the beginning. Your feedback, ideas, and ambitions for what the platform could enable drove significant change.

If you’re new to Slack or our platform, welcome! We know there’s a lot to learn, but we’re focused on delivering a rewarding experience, with all the tools, help and community you need.

Over these years, we built more than an API together. We built a platform that empowers you to make work happen, your way.

As always, we’re here for you. Never hesitate to email feedback@slack.com.

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