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Startup founder claims $2.8 billion startup Slack is misleading people about its free 'unlimited' plan

Startup founder claims $2.8 billion startup Slack is misleading people about its free 'unlimited' plan

stewart butterfield, slack, sv100 2015


Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield

Slack, the $2.8 billion business communications app, has long advertised itself as a "freemium" product, where an unlimited number of users can use it for free before deciding to upgrade and pay money for more robust package with better features.

For example, on its pricing page, it says, "Slack is free to use for as long as you want, and with an unlimited number of people."

But Quincy Larson, founder of an open source code learning community called, uncovered a hidden user limit for free users that Slack does not clearly mention on its site.

He says once he added 8,462 users to his Slack channel, it stopped accepting new users.

"There's no mention of it anywhere, and yet it's clear this limit exists. It's just hidden," Larson told Business Insider. "There are hundreds of open source communities blindly signing up for Slack, not knowing that they're rapidly hurdling toward this limit that will basically hold their community's growth."

Now, this limit apparently strikes only when more than 8,462 users are added to a single channel. It's possible to create many different channels within Slack, which is how most companies use it.

But for an open source community like FreeCodeCamp, it's important to use a messaging app that has the capacity to hold thousands of users in a single chat room. Larson's site, for example, has 35,000 total users, who mainly communicate through one big general channel.

After discovering the user limit, Larson reached out to Slack's service desk, but they also seemed confused with what they could offer. As Larson explains on his blog, Slack initially told him they could fix it, only to retract later and tell him that he's reached the "maximum user limit for a Slack team."

Screen Shot 2015 06 22 at 1.55.47 PM


Because of the user limitation, and not having the resources to upgrade to the paying service, FreeCodeCamp has decided to switch back to Gitter, a Github based chatroom system, which offers unlimited user space. Larson says the migration back to Gitter will cost lots of resources because it will have move infrastructure and all the current users who had signed up to its Slack channel.

Larson says even if Slack changes its policy, there's no change he's going back to Slack. "The cost of moving is tremendous," he said. "Slack is not a good choice for large communities."

When Business Insider asked about this limit, Slack's representative did not directly answer the question, but directed us to its pricing page, where it states, "We offer a free plan for small teams, casual users, and anyone who wants to evaluate Slack.

The spokesperson added:

Based on that, it's difficult to infer Slack would be an appropriate tool for use by a 10,000 person community. Slack would love to be able to support all kinds of uses, but we also need to prioritize the uses for which Slack was designed and the needs of existing customers, who have very reasonable expectations about ongoing support and continued investment in the product. It's not possible for one product to simultaneously serve the specific needs of working teams and large communities, at least not to the level of quality for which Slack aims. The requirements are just too different and often diametrically opposed.

Even so, Slack really should update the language on its site. As seen in the screenshot below, Slack does state there's "no limit on how many people you can add to your team" on its free pricing page.

Screen Shot 2015 06 22 at 1.52.00 PM

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