After months of rumors, Slack has made it official.

The team collaboration unicorn filed papers last week to go public — setting the stage for one of the biggest IPOs of 2019, and raising the stakes in the battle to dominate messaging in the workplace.

Cut me some Slack

Okay, so this wouldn’t technically be an IPO but a direct listing, meaning only current shareholders (rather than the company itself) can sell shares.

The company was valued at $7.1 billion in August and boasts more than 8 million active users and 3 million paid users. So it can afford to do things on its own terms, as an inside source suggested to Bloomberg:

"The company is choosing the unusual method for going public because it doesn’t need the cash or publicity of an IPO."

Trail of tears 😭

Slack was founded in 2009 but over the last five years “it managed to eclipse almost every major competitor in the space,” reports Quartz.

That list includes HipChat and Stride, which it acquired from Atlassian last summer, and also-rans like Skype, Google Hangouts Chat and Facebook’s Workplace, which haven’t gained much traction within the enterprise.

Then there’s Microsoft Teams. It comes bundled with Office 365, making it attractive to companies that already rely on Excel, Word and Powerpoint.

Microsoft tried and failed to acquire Slack for $8 billion in 2017 and in the last few months it's introduced a host of features to make Teams more competitive, prompting CMSWire to wonder if Microsoft may play the role of spoiler:

"It is possible that it could really rain on Slack’s IPO parade."

Bursting the bubble 💬

Workplace messaging apps don’t exist in a (speech) bubble.

Whether a company chooses Slack, Teams, or another tool, most employees will still have a handful of other apps on their phones to chat with their partners, friends, families and, yes — each other.

Computerworld reports that WhatsApp is the most widely-used mobile messaging app within U.K. offices, more prevalent than the mobile versions of either Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Given concerns about data privacy and the “wild west” nature of consumer chat apps — a recent study found that 20% of workers across the U.K. have been bullied by colleagues via messaging — companies are grappling with whether to ban their use outright, or embrace the channels people are already using to organize after-work drinks.

Slack may soon dominate workplace messaging, but that doesn’t mean it will dominate messaging in the workplace.


The Emoji Report

The Unicode Consortium — the High Church of emojis worldwide — has announced its Class of 2019.

59 new emojis will become available later this year (270 if you factor in variants for gender and skin tone). Along with more pedestrian additions like a waffle, an otter and an ice cube, are a slew of symbols meant to make the official emoji roster more diverse.

These include a falafel pita, a Hindu temple, a mechanical arm and a drop of blood — intended to represent a woman’s period — which was fought for by a UK girls’ rights organization, according to the BBC:

"The most popular choice was a pair of pants marked by blood but when that was rejected by the Unicode Consortium, the charity pushed for a blood drop instead."

Emojis matter 🤓

Fuelled by the meteoric rise of messaging, emojis have changed the way we communicate, with implications as far-reaching as law, science and education.

For Wired, linguist Gretchen McCulloch writes that kids are learning to text emojis before they can even read, and that this form of “digital babbling” may be a way of teaching them the art of conversation.

Here’s an adorable example from a 5-year-old with a penchant for “any animal that pinches:"

🦂🐊🐍🐛🐝🦇🐜🕷🦈🦎🐟🐬🦀🦑🦖🦕🐋🐢🐌🐞🐚🦋🦗🕸🦂🕷🐛🐝🐞🦀🦗🐜

Apple Insider reports that emoji use is causing confusion within the U.S. justice system, with courts unsure how to interpret them in evidence, and how to account for the fact that they can appear substantially different across channels and platforms:

"While Android users may see the 'grinning face with smiling eyes emoji' and understand it as being 'blissfully happy,'... iOS users instead interpreted the symbol as 'ready to fight,' and could take it as an intention to be violent."

Then there’s the time when Apple’s squid emoji had a butt on its forehead for like two years, until a marine biologist pointed it out.

Like I said, emojis matter.


This is an excerpt from The Message, Smooch’s biweekly newsletter about the messaging industry, chatbots and conversational commerce. Subscribe to get the next edition delivered straight to your inbox.