Teams, a New Encrypted Slack Competitor, Launched by the Company Behind OKCupid

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Teams, a New Encrypted Slack Competitor, Launched by the Company Behind OKCupid
Highlights
  • Keybase Teams will take Slack on in the corporate messaging space
  • Its biggest promises are end-to-end encryption and lower cost
  • Teams is also aimed at communities, which anyone can start and join

There's even more competition for Slack in the business messaging space now, with Keybase, the company behind OKCupid and SparkNotes announcing its own platform called Teams. The new platform promises end-to-end encryption and is designed with security and privacy as its key principles. Teams is currently in Alpha and is completely free to use as of now, with no paywall to access your message history (which seems like a direct shot at Slack). The company does plan to charge businesses at some point, but it hasn't made details of its pricing model public yet except to say that teams that are created for free now will not be charged money in the future.

Teams will be aimed at businesses as well as other communities. There is a limit of 1000 members per team now, though that will be raised in the future, possibly at a price. People will be able to register a team with any name, and that name will be globally unique to that team. Keybase has clearly said that the chat function within each team looks "a bit like" Slack and Discord. There are also channels within the team, which everyone can participate in. Large teams with multiple channels will be segregated, while small teams are blended into a single inbox. Teams can have subteams which are isolated from each other, and can include non-team members such as contractors, interns, or customers. Anyone can create a public community, and anyone can ask to become a member without seeing a list of members or admins.

End-to-end encryption means that chats and files are safe even if the company's servers are breached. Even the names of channels and files are obfuscated except to end users. This will appeal to organisations that have legal or competitive reasons to keep information confidential. Encryption also applies to files that are sent between team members, and Keybase has teased that it will announce an encrypted collaborative code repository feature in two weeks.

Teams is already live, with clients for iOS, Android, macOS, Linux and Windows available to download. You can reserve a team name and get started, but administration will only be possible through a command line interface for the next 4-8 weeks. Keybase is promising updates every week, and the project is open source so contributors are welcome to join in.

Keybase calls this the most important project in its history, and it isn't hard to imagine why. Slack currently dominates the space thanks to its modern design and ease of use, and just announced that it has raised $250 million at a $5 billion valuation in its latest funding round. However, it costs a lot of money per user, and its success has attracted the attention of the world's biggest companies. It faces competiton from Microsoft Teams as well as Facebook Workplace. Workflow management software maker Atlassian launched its own attempt called Stride two weeks ago in addition to its existing Hipchat product. Homegrown competitor Flock also has Slack directly in its sights.

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Jamshed Avari

Jamshed Avari has been working in tech journalism as a writer, editor and reviewer for over 13 years. He has reviewed hundreds of products ranging from smartphones and tablets to PC components and accessories, and has also written guides, feature articles, news and analyses. Going beyond simple ratings and specifications, he digs deep into how emerging products and services affect actual users, and what marks they leave on our cultural landscape. He's happiest when something new comes ...More

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