Coming to Slack: the ability to fav messages with emoji

More than a smiley.
More than a smiley.
Image: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton
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One of the reasons that workers love Slack, the rapidly growing chat platform for companies, is its quirkiness. The startup, which is valued by investors at $1.2 billion, uses its loading screen to display silly, sometimes inspirational messages (“Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you”). Its resident robot, Slackbot, functions as a helpful, sometimes snarky, assistant.

Part of the platform’s appeal is its use of the conventions and language of social networks to appeal to a 21st-century workforce. Now the company plans to add a feature similar to Facebook’s “like” or Twitter’s “fav” buttons—except Slack’s version will allow users respond to messages with emoji.

Slack’s founder and CEO, Stewart Butterfield, tells Quartz that the new button fills a specific communication need: “I’m not sure if you do this, but over the last couple years I’ve come to use favs in Twitter kind of like a read receipt—to acknowledge something’s funny, or it’s something I endorse or agree with,” he explains.

Currently, users can star messages in Slack, but unlike in Twitter, the mark isn’t seen by other people and functions mainly as a bookmark. With its new fav-like feature, the Slack team debated using a thumbs up, star, or heart emoji, but ultimately decided to expand the emoji options, including some of the less popular ones. “It’s more like choosing from a standard set [of emoji] like you have on the phone, including all the dumb ones—rectangles and all that,” explains Butterfield. The details are still unclear, but the company is currently thinking of giving users a default set of emojis, so they can respond quickly, without having to sift through many options.

It’s no secret that Slack as a company is obsessed with emoji. Last summer, its data science team analyzed 16.3 million emoji sent over chat to date and found the white medium-small square was the least loved—used 35 times up until that point. Also, at a party celebrating its first birthday last month, the company decorated a historic jazz theater in San Francisco with emoji balloons and gave guests emoji cookies (including some with frosting styled after the poop emoji) as parting gifts.

Butterfield says Slack will probably roll out the new feature around the third quarter—but don’t hold him to it. “I hate giving estimates, but likely before the end of the summer—later this year,” he said.