What Is Slack? And Other Burning Questions, Answered

June 20, 2019, 3:27 PM UTC

You can’t get within 10 clicks of a business website today and not be overwhelmed with stories about Slack’s kinda-sorta, but not really IPO. It’s expected to be one of the biggest public offerings of the year, but this red hot company is still something of a mystery to many workers.

Slack Technologies might be an invaluable tool for many office workers (its CEO is predicting it will end company emails within seven years), but there are millions of people whose jobs don’t require the service and might be a bit confused about the hoopla.

If you’re among them, we’ve got some explainers for you. Call it a Slack FAQ, if you will.

What is Slack used for?

Slack is a messaging tool for offices that lets workers communicate securely, regardless of location. It can trace its roots back to older services like AOL Messenger, but it’s much more robust, with organized discussions via channels (letting company divisions, project teams and even office locations have their own discussions without the clutter of a larger group chat). It’s easy to join or leave these channels, controlling which conversations you want to be included in or a part of.

That lets you set up both work-specific chats as well as a virtual office water cooler, if you have a number of workers who telecommute. (Here are Fortune, we tend to gather to talk about our pets.)

The service also has thousands of apps that can integrated into it, making it an extremely flexible communications device.

Do you have to pay for Slack?

Part of Slack’s appeal is its flexibility. The company offers a free service as well as two paid plans for smaller companies, as well as an Enterprise Grid plan for larger ones.

How much does Slack cost per month?

Small and medium-sized businesses pay $6.67 per person per month, when billed annually. Larger businesses pay $12.50 per person per month, with a few extra tools at their disposal.

Why is it called Slack?

Founder Stewart Butterfield originally codenamed the service “linefeed” when he was working with his team to develop it, but on Nov. 14, 2012, he had a revelation that would lead to the company’s name. Slack, technically, is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation & Knowledge.” But he also liked it because it was “just nice to say.”

It was supposed to be a short term placeholder. It became the company’s calling card.

Where will Slack trade?

Slack shares will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker WORK. The company is valued at around $17 billion.

Is Slack profitable?

It’s not. Not yet, anyways. In paperwork filed with the SEC, it said there was no guarantee it ever would reach that goal. Investors, for now, don’t care.

Slack expects revenue growth of 50% in its fiscal second quarter, a slowdown from previous quarters, but still an impressive rate. In fiscal 2019, it reported $400 million in revenue, but $138 million in losses.

Who is Steward Butterfield?

Slack’s chairman wasn’t your typical tech startup founder. He didn’t care much about computers as a kid and was raised in a log cabin without running water or electricity. He studied philosophy in college and didn’t really have a goal when he graduated with his Master’s degree. Eventually, he founded Flickr, the photo and video hosting service now owned by Yahoo. He stayed with the company after that takeover until 2008, when he left to found Slack. He’s now worth over $1 billion.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—Slack is doing a direct listing instead of an IPO. What is that?

4 things investors need to know about Slack’s direct listing

—Slack’s CEO was raised in a log cabin—and now he’s worth $1.3 billion

—When the next recession hits, four good things could happen

Don’t miss the daily Term Sheet, Fortune‘s newsletter on deals and dealmakers.

Read More

Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward