Slack's Stewart Butterfield says email is 'the cockroach of the internet' and we'll be living with it for the next 30 years

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Stewart Butterfield

Jim Edwards

Stewart Butterfield.

Anyone who has used Slack - the chatroom app for teams in workplaces - will tell you that it has one massive positive side effect on your working life: It reduces the amount of internal email you receive from your colleagues.

Once your company is on Slack, gone are the reply-all emails where someone just says "Thanks!" Those crushing inboxes full of dozens, hundreds or thousands of unread emails, seem so much less urgent when your company is on Slack.

And you've probably also noticed that the Slack mobile app has a superior direct-messaging experience compared with many consumer apps that only do messages.

But Slack founder Stewart Butterfield, speaking at Web Summit in Dublin on Tuesday, said those of you hoping that Slack will kill off email altogether might have a long wait.

"Email will be the cockroach of the internet," he said, when asked whether Slack will kill email. "I think we've got another 30 or 40 years of email left."

The reason email survives - even though everyone seems to hate it - is that "email has many benefits, it's the lowest common denominator for official communications," Butterfield said. "But it's a terrible way to manage internal communications."

Butterfield then counter-intuitively described company email as a way of hiding information rather than making it available. Most people think email is a good way to spread information around - one click and it's off to as many other people as you like. But because email goes only to people specified in the address line, everyone not in that line is carved out of the process. "Employees have only a slice, everything else is opaque," he said. "Slack makes that transparent."

Because Slack preserves communications, and is searchable, even the newest employee has the company's entire internal history at her fingertips. "On your first day you have the whole history of the organization's communications," he said.

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