Slack’s Huddles audio chat feature, a popular way to start informal conversations since its launch last year, has seen the fastest uptake of any Slack feature to date, according to the company, with millions of users each week.
And at its Frontiers conference this week, Slack announced plans to expand functionality within huddle calls with optional video and screen sharing.
“It's going to retain that lightweight, instantaneous audio-first experience it has today, but you’ll be able to progressively expand the scope of any huddle that you're in,” said Rob Seaman, senior vice president for product at Slack, who added that audio will remain the default option when starting a huddle call.
To recap, Slack Huddles lets users start an audio meeting with colleagues in channel conversations or direct messages by clicking a “headphones” icon in the left-hand sidebar.
While this may suffice for some conversations, the new huddle functionality – slated to launch this fall – adds options for users to switch to a video call for up to 50 people at a time. It will also be possible to separate the video feed into a separate window to make it easier to multitask or send messages while on a call.
The upcoming screen-share option will allow two participants to broadcast their desktops to others on the huddle call at the same time. Seaman envisages huddle screen sharing as useful for product teams meeting briefly via video to consult on different versions of a design, or for sales staff to quickly compare new and old contract proposals.
Slack’s also adding a persistent message thread on the right-hand side of the huddle screen that lets users share files and links during a huddle meeting. All messages and interactions are then automatically posted and saved into the Slack channel or DM screen the huddle was initiated from for later access.
As with audio huddles, video and screen sharing will be accessible using Slack Connect, meaning that it will be also possible to start up video calls and share screens with clients and other external collaborators that also use Slack.
After two years of remote work, businesses may not exactly be suffering from a lack of video and screen share options. Slack already has its own native capabilities, alongside numerous third-party options (it’s also an area of focus for rival Microsoft, which recently announced plans to embed interactive apps in Teams screen share).
Accessing these features in Slack Huddles lowers the barrier to more informal conversations that don’t necessitate a long video call, said Seaman.
“You don't have to worry about going into calendars and finding a slot days in advance, or having a 30-minute meeting that you feel obligated to actually be 30 minutes,” he said. In contrast, the average length of a huddle call is 10 minutes. “So that's 20 minutes that you're saving ostensibly, as opposed to a scheduled 30-minute meeting."
"People use social applications that are increasingly audio- and video-heavy,” said Wayne Kurtzman, research director at IDC. “Adding video to Slack Huddles, and especially the ability for two people to simultaneously screen share, lends itself to the ad hoc meetings [we have] in real life."
Also announced ahead of Slack’s Frontiers event this week is the general availability of GovSlack. Slack previewed GovSlack last September; it enables public sector organisations on Slack’s Enterprise Grid plan to meet the most stringent government compliance demands when using the collaboration tool.
GovSlack runs in a separate instance within Slack’s Amazon Web Service-hosted data centres, specifically the AWS GovCloud (US) cloud.