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Flickr co-founder once again bounces from games to business

Laura Blackwell | April 16, 2013
Both games and business loom large in Stewart Butterfield's creative cycle.

When Tiny Speck announced Glitch's closure last year, it made reference to a "unique messaging technology with applications outside of the gaming world" as the company's next project. Journalists speculated about what the project could be, but aside from a gentle correction on what the emphasis would be ("Not photo sharing!" Butterfield wrote), Tiny Speck has kept mum.

Elbowing into collaboration

Details on Slack are scant. Tiny Speck confirms that it will be software for SMB and enterprise, but hasn't explained whether the software will be Web-based or rely on a desktop client, or whether it will have a mobile component.

"The collaboration market is very crowded," says Henry Dewing, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. He points out that it includes competitors such as Microsoft and Cisco on the enterprise end and a bevy of smaller companies on the SMB end. But he agrees that there's room for improvement.

"The big deal with collaboration for businesses is looking at how employees use tools, how they collaborate, how they make decisions," says Dewing. But collaboration platforms can also be hard to use, and companies often struggle to convince employees of the software's value. "Even once it's installed, they need to learn how to use it," says Dewing. "They need to understand how it can help them get their job done. That kind of adoption hurdle can keep them from getting the value of it."

It's impossible to judge a product you haven't seen, but Dewing thinks that Butterfield's Flickr pedigree suggests a fresh perspective. "They'd come out with more of a consumer mindset, which is a good thing," he says. "Somebody actually understands how individual users will adopt and use software."

Slack remains under tight wraps

Tiny Speck's website remains a static page, although on Wednesday it slyly introduced the word "working" into its mission statement, which now reads, "to make people's working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive."

Even the closing page that mentioned the "unique messaging technology" has been taken down and replaced with a Glitch image of a complaining piglet. This may not be a comment on the missing page. The Glitch piglets were terrible malcontents.

40. Ain't dead. Messed some things up pretty bad. Did others pretty well. Still plenty to learn. I think I'll get the hang of it eventually.

Still, with the GNE-to-Flickr cycle as precedent, Slack's potential is intriguing. "I would expect it to have a very interesting brand," says IDC's Chute. "If I tried to dissect Flickr, how would I even map that back to photography? I would also expect a clean user interface, probably focused on an underserved market or market segment."

Tiny Speck has Slack slated for release later in 2013. No specific date has been set, but the company says that development is on schedule.


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