Update 10/24/2016: This piece has been altered to add new top Slack alternatives and descriptions to existing covered software, and to remove communication tools that no longer make the cut.
For the Boomer generation, freedom meant car ownership. This notoriously independent group born between 1943 and 1960 shrugged off their overbearing parents and zipped around the country in Impalas, Mustangs, and Cortinas. Boomers coveted the open road, independence, and even disconnection.
That story isn’t true for Millennials.
For Millennials, liberation is access to the Internet and online chat.
Millennials, as a community-oriented generation, tend to be “plugged in” at all times—be it on their computer, on their phone, or even on their watch. For a majority of young people, being completely disconnected for an undefined period of time is terrifying—and it’s not just disconnection from the internet, but disconnection from their peers.
Given that Millennials now make up a majority of the workforce, it’s no wonder that online communication tools have reached new heights. Project management software like Asana and Crocagile are dedicated to rethinking email. “Social media” is now not just a household word, but an essential networking phenomenon.
And chat? Be it for personal use or for business, chat has far evolved from AOL Instant Messenger (which, believe it or not, still exists).
Slack has a few unusual features that make it perfectly suited for work, including automatic archiving of all your interactions, a good search engine and the ability to work across just about every device you use. Because it is hosted online and is extremely customizable, Slack is also easy for corporate technology departments to set up and maintain.
These features have helped turn Slack into one of the fastest-growing business applications in history. After only a year in operation, Slack now serves about half a million workers every day as a partial replacement for email, instant messaging and face-to-face meetings. Its base of users is doubling every three months…
I have a feeling of intimacy with co-workers on the other side of the country that is almost fun. That’s a big deal, for a job.
In other words, Slack is not only highly effective at what it does, but it’s cornered much of the collaboration software market.
Innovation breeds further innovation, so much so that Slack alternatives are emerging quicker than Apple fans on a new iPhone release day.
With hundreds of chat options, I distilled the top Slack alternatives using these four parameters:
- Free or affordable for small business
- Works well with small and medium enterprises (though may have options for enterprise companies)
- Adds something a little extra
With that in mind, I compiled the best Slack alternatives available today. Since each stands on its own, they are not ranked but rather listed alphabetically.
Azendoo is quick to claim that it’s much bigger than just a chat platform. The team communication software focuses on alleviating Slack’s clutter problem.
To deal with it, Azendoo’s “discussions” center around one topic that can include documents and images. Communication happens in the comments, so each group of conversations is already filtered for relevance.
Azendoo’s version of channels, or “subjects,” can host multiple discussions, keeping everything clean. They’ve even recently added subtasks—a needed feature that project managers have been asking for for a while.
Price: $9/user/month or $90 for the year
I’ve written about Bitrix24 a few times before; it’s been named one of the best free project management software options, one for the best project management software for entrepreneurs, and as one of the best free CRM software options on the market.
That’s no easy feat.
Beyond having most of Slack’s features (Bitrix24 doesn’t have the ability to export chat history), Bitrix24 goes above and beyond with no limit on search history, completely free video conferencing, and free screen sharing.
Bitrix24 also has build-in tasks, document management, and CRM features. It also now offers free unlimited users in their unpaid version!
Price: Free with options to upgrade starting at $39 per month
eXo Platform sports a 4.5/5 overall score at Capterra—in other words, its users are happy with the product. One reviewer says,
eXo is a great solution for both social and portal service demand based on its various features. I must say that it just likes a combination of everything from intranet, social network to blog, wiki,… [sic] everything in one. Therefore, with eXo, maybe I don’t have to think of any other website since it has covered all what I want and all what I need.
Beyond traditional chat functions, eXo offers an all-in-one reference system, where a company can host wikis, task management, project management, forums, and even document management. And because eXo is open source, it’s entirely customizable.
If you’re looking for a hefty solution that offers a whole lot more than just advanced chat, check out eXo.
Price: Starts at $2,400 for 25 users
In Fleep, you can send messages to anyone with an email address—no more “walled gardens” where you can only chat with other people on your platform. If you’re sick of asking people to sign up for different chat platforms just so they can communicate, Fleep is a great option. And since it can act as an all-inclusive communication tool, you may as well get rid of the business world’s biggest productivity suck: email.
One way that Fleep differentiates itself from Slack is that it’s “user centric” instead of “team centric.” I chatted with Katheriin Liibert, Fleep’s Communication Manager, who explained,
Fleep is user-centric (me and my conversations) while Slack is team-centric (our team and our conversations)…
Slack’s team-centric approach suits well for the people who need to work only internally within one specific team, it’s easier manage the team members and team conversations.
Fleep’s user-centric approach suits well for the people who need to work with different people across organizational borders or who work simultaneously in different teams.
In other words, Fleep is great for both outbound and inbound communication and gives Slack a real run for its money.
Price: Free; premium is available for €1 per user / month for a limited time
If you’re familiar with Atlassian, you may have heard of its self-hosted chat option, HipChat.
Claiming to have better uptime and reliability than Slack, HipChat offers native video chat, powerful JIRA integrations (like ticket tracking in the chatroom), the ability to track server health with a slash command, and customer sentiment monitoring services.
Like eXo Platform, HipChat also has outstanding customer reviews on Capterra. One reviewer explains,
The pros are endless. Integrates well with other Atlasssian tools. I would like to see mentions from JIRA and Confluence directly to a user instead of a group. This will work as a great notification tool. Even better would be a JIRA and Confluence notifications integration. Something like the notification icon/button on the top right corner of Confluence.
Another user humorously adds, “Pros: emoticons. Cons: not enough emoticons.”
Price: Free; $2 per user, per month for premium features
Jostle has a unique approach to communication; as CEO Brad Palmer explained to me, Jostle acts as an “Organization as a Platform.” What does he mean by that?
The concept here is a platform that clarifies workplace teams, makes internal communication happen at all levels, and surfaces information/expertise across the organization. For dispersed organizations, Jostle’s platform becomes the most tangible realization of the company itself – the go-to place to participate in workplace culture, understand organizational goals, and celebrate success. Jostle is achieving unheard of (over 5X industry norms) organization-wide employee participation levels, as measured across its diverse customer base.
Where Jostle shines is not necessarily in individual teams, like Slack, but across organizations (their primary demographic is businesses with over 25 global employees). They aim to fix the problem of people disregarding chat software; if your company has 5,000 people and only a 400 are using their given communication client, the benefits of chat search and advanced communication tools are moot. That’s why Jostle user engagement is its number one customer success metric.
The end result? A gorgeous system that everyone uses. Check it out.
Price: Scales with company size; starts at $8 per employee per month for a 25-person company. From there, the price starts scaling down after 50 people.
One of the greatest benefits of chat is having a ton of business information being stored and shared between employees—and one of the most frustrating problems is being able to find specific topics that you knew you chatted about at some point.
Kaleo Software addresses that exact painpoint.
Kaleo delivers an in-app experience, so you don’t need to go outside of your existing workflow to get the answer you need. You ask a question and get an answer, no more hunting and guessing to find the information you need to get the job done. No more bugging your manager with questions they’ve answered 100 times, and no more chat searching.
Price: Scales with company size; starts at $8 per employee per month
The difference between communication and collaboration is the fundamental differentiator between Slack and Moxtra. Moxtra emphasizes teamwork with chat, service integration, document collaboration and annotation, teleconferencing (audio and video), conference recording and broadcasting, and screen sharing, along with a majority of Slack’s features, like direct messages and useage statistics.
Moxtra also does particularly well on mobile for both Android and iPhone. Looking at reviews from the Google Play store, the consensus is that the “app is awesome, the bugs are gone and the operation is smooth.” And as for Apple products? Just mosey over to the productivity section of the Apple iPad business store, where Moxtra is featured. iOS users um up the experience as “Awesome.”
Plus, Moxtra already has integrations with the Apple watch. How cool is that?
Price: Free; upgrades available starting at $12 per user, per month
Rocket.Chat, like eXo Platform, is an open source Slack alternative. This means that if your IT team wants to make it their own, go crazy.
Rocket.Chat has lots of features that Slack just doesn’t offer. This includes:
- Audio and Video Conference
- Built-in Live-chat for Websites
- Theming and Branding
Beyond that, Rocket.Chat is incredibly intuitive. My cat could use it if she wanted.
Oh, and for the technically inclined? Rocket.Chat not only offers iOS, Android, and downloaded versions for Mac and Windows, but it’s also available for Linux.
When it comes to a completely free Slack alternative that isn’t open source, Ryver is likely your best bet. They cost a grand total of no dollars and zero cents, aren’t funded by advertising, and offer unlimited chats, data, guests, post, search, teams, and users.
You’re not going to find a better deal on this list.
Ryver aims to take on Slack’s limited free version, offering threaded posts and discussions along with a number of paid Slack features, like unlimited integrations and guest access.
Team Tracker App is a Slack alternative from Gray Matrix, a U.S. and India-based software company. It was developed to be mobile-first, though members can “deep dive” when they’re on their desktop computer.
Team Tracker App is great for industries based in the field—one could even argue that it could be used as a cheap field service software alternative that uses Getting Things Done as a guiding philosophy.
But don’t let Team Tracker App’s emphasis on mobile deter the your office. Team Tracker App is great at filtering what’s important, and limiting the homescreen to just that, so the end user doesn’t get overloaded with “to dos.” With an emphasis on enterprise processes like sales calls, field ops, and service deliverables, Team Tracker App forces its users to communicate on a simple and straightforward system, with everything tying back to projects.
As Santosh Maharshi, cofounder of Team Tracker App, told me, “We aim to build clean, simple and productive task based communication app.” They indeed did just that.
Price: $3 per user, per month or $2.50 per user, per month per year subcription
There are hundreds of apps and software products pushing onto the communication scene claiming to be the next top slack alternative, but these thirteen are the cream of the crop.
Did I miss any? Have you used any of these products? Let me know in the comments below!
Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.