Civil War: Slack vs Email (Part 2)


Is there really a David to take down the Goliath of email, or do we just need to put old wine in a new bottle? The conclusion to the two-part blog series - after #TEAMSLACK in Part 1, it's the turn of #TEAMEMAIL.

Improved . . .

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one: Plain old email is not the best office collaboration tool anymore. It sure used to be. Then social media came along and changed the way we communicate. It's instant, it's fun and it's easy. What's not to like?

Yet email has been hanging on because no social media platform could make real inroads into the workplace. There seemed to be an unspoken consensus that you can't mean business when you write on people's walls or tweet at them. But at the same time, email started to feel tedious and drab (Fun fact: Email hasn't really changed for half a century now).

Email might be more "adult" yet social feels so easy and intimate. People fire up social media apps on their smartphones to check for new updates without thinking, so instant messages are read sooner. You're more likely to have second thoughts about checking your email, though. Businesses were quick to catch on to this new behavior, and social media started to overtake email when something required immediate attention. Leveraging social media's most popular features into an office tool became inevitable.

Slack drew first blood. Merely positioning a chat-based app as a tool built exclusively for workplace collaboration was enough to open the floodgates of "RIP Email" obituaries. Even Facebook, which was meant for fun and catching up with friends, launched Workplace, a collaboration space for businesses. For quite a while now, pressure has been growing to put some zing into office communication. So 18 months ago, we went back to the drawing board. We had to re-invent email to address a fundamental challenge, "How do we keep people in their inboxes?"

For the business that runs off a browser.

Our idea: enable users to get more out of the inbox by removing the need to go anywhere else. Consequently, we built the Zoho Mail Suite: an inbox that also has Chat, Calendar, Notes, Tasks, and Contacts built in. That was phase one.

We then set out to fix email's weaknesses. First up, scores of users complain about the pain of dealing with the overload of spam and unimportant emails. Consequently, we set out to reduce the number of emails users receive. When you really think about it, most workplace communication happens between people within the organization itself. It therefore makes practical sense to reserve emails exclusively for communication with people outside your organization.

With this key insight of separating internal and external communication, we devised a new communication tool meant exclusively for coworkers. We kept what's best about email, while ensuring fewer emails get exchanged, while also bringing in the best of social media.

. . . and New

SaaS has truly changed the face of the modern workplace. With applications moving to the cloud, businesses practically run on a browser today. And we think one tab is always going to be open for your email inbox.

Here's how our convictions about email's endurance were vindicated.

Although Slack became wildly popular in very short time, cracks began to appear just as quickly. Could chat-based collaboration become the be-all and end-all of office communication? Towards the end of 2015, Slack announced an improved version of a feature called 'Posts' (You know it now as 'Posts 2.0'). From their official blog, Slack explains the thinking behind this feature:

Sometimes you need to share an idea that requires a bit of explaining, or warrants an extended conversation. Slack messages are great for conversation, but if you have a big idea to share with your team, try the new Posts to lay out paragraph after glorious paragraph explaining it all. Posts retain the feature of being a standalone comment thread in channels where they are posted, so discussions about them stay organized.

Slack itself seemed to acknowledge the limitations of chat and instant messaging, the very cornerstone of their product that earned them diehard fans almost overnight. The real clincher though comes from an even earlier announcement :

mail-slack-bannerSlack, meet email. Email, Slack.

Email remains ubiquitous and is quite useful for getting updates from pretty much every service on the Internet. Today we’re launching a new feature: all teams . . . can have email directed into Slack channels.

Even Slack couldn't do away with email at their workplace, and they probably realized the same could well be the case with their users too. That, we think, speaks for itself.

We think an email-free workplace will never happen, and like the example of Slack shows, chat-only collaboration tools and the likes are not really there yet. As I argued before, workplaces need a communication tool that balances asynchronous collaboration and the best of social.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Streams.

Streams - A new way to interact with emails.

What we did was transform the way you interact with email. And "Email Sharing" was born. Share instead of replying or forwarding by simply @mentioning a recipient. Your colleague will receive a notification, and you can have productive discussions around the email you shared, and all the while there are fewer emails floating around in people's inboxes.

Streams is a social hangout for your organization right inside your inbox, giving a fun spin to team collaboration and project management.


Just because you have to keep your inbox open all day at office, doesn't necessarily mean you have to exchange a ton of emails. Collaboration with your co-workers can and should be simpler than composing 'professional sounding' emails, and cleaner than having an inbox full of outrageously long email threads. That's why in Streams you can instead post a topic in your team's group, and then discuss in the comment thread. It's faster, easier and tidier all at the same time. Collaboration - check. Fewer emails - check. Game, set and match - Zoho Mail.

And this is just the beginning. We combined the best of email and social. The result is something a lot more than just an inbox. And that's how you make email great again.


120 Replies to Civil War: Slack vs Email (Part 2)

  1. He's not very friendly. Why make presentations that make life difficult for the user? Instead of those changes that do not generate any added value, because they do not enable the option of including in the signature the logo or the image of the companies, that if it generates added value.

  2. how do I add a 'safe' email to my account? I get Unable to send message;Reason:554 5.1.8 Sender Address Blocked. Adding the address to Contacts does not help. Please help!! Thank you! PS. I tried to add this to the 'Help' and it tells me 'Something went wrong' and I am unable to submit.

  3. It seems like you have renamed 'group alias'. Perhaps it's time for you to embrace Message Queuing or abstract it to Jabber Texting. The 'best' 'social' interface for xmpp currently is Movim as it is also privacy minded soon to be extended as OMEMO [simple forward] encryption. Email needs an MTA overhaul: NO MORE backward compatibility to non-encryption.

  4. Sorry but this whole thing, from the claims of social media being instant or intimate. Businesses and people who ignore emails do the same on social media, blocking is the same as well. So when the basis and assumptions aren't accurate to the actual use and experience, it's a bad criteria. I understand the blog may be the personal view & experience of the blogger, thus it's anecdotal and doesn't establish an actual criteria to work from but maybe in relation to a marketing trend that may in itself actually be a fad or be due to some method of promotion without any actual merit. Many aspects to this but I'll leave it at this since the inaccuracy of the criteria nullifies.

  5. That's actually a very good idea as it combines the best of both worlds. The thoroughness of email with the intimate communication of a chat app. Without the overhead of the header, sender, receiver, subject, etc. The email can still be used for attachments, images, and whatnot. However, try not to use the term "make 'x' great again", LOL! ... ;-)

  6. One thing I definitely like about email is that it is based on standards: You can choose your client program and service provider without vendor lock-in.

  7. So far so good. I have started using Zoho Books and Zoho Expense (paid), and now I gradually trying and using other Zoho apps. Start using Zoho Mail and it works great. I tried using Slack previously but our team didnt get used to as we need a proper email so we stick to Gmail and whatsapp group communication. However, Zoho Mail solve both and we enjoy using it. Our team basically using Apple Mac and it works just fine. Zoho Mail help us to form Group between us (HR, Sales & marketing, Operation) without the need of extra apps or browser. Now, we 95% using Zoho Mail and all emails to/from previous Gmail were send to Zoho Mail. Good job ZOHO and I hope all of you keep up the great work.

  8. Navaneeth - I've contacted zoho help several times but no response. Can you please assist me? The text on my email account all of a sudden went to a very small font. Although I change the size in settings it remains the same size. It is almost impossible to read - both with emails received and when I'm composing emails. Is there anything I can do to change this...other than cancel the zoho account? thank you for your help!

  9. I chose Zoho because it's an email service with a FAIR service agreement. No ads, no BS, and that is what I'm looking for for business purposes. For personal use, I've been a big fan of Google (gmail, apps, etc) but I find them a little bit too intrusive to trust my business to. Social Media was fun in the beginning, but I've put all my accounts on standby almost 5 years ago. People used to go haywire when they had spyware on their computer... nowadays they're willingly subscribing to it. For me personally, it goes way and above common sense, especially today when you give a Facebook messenger access to just about ANYTHING on your phone or tablet. They can track your every move, including every single transaction you make if you do phone banking. Very scary in itself, but even more scary that 99.99999% of the people don't seem to have the slightest problem with it. Honestly, I can't wait for that bomb to go off... especially now they're all starting to experiment more and more with AI. Call me paranoid, but Skynet is just waiting to happen. When it comes to business, I think it's important to be consistent and to be consistent, you need to be organized. With social networks and the plethora of communication tools that are used, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep order in your house. This is the reason for me that email is still the major communication tool that I rely on. I remember what I've talked about with people, but if I need to dig into the details, I need to know that there's 1 single place where I can get the info. Did he send it to me over skype/hangouts/whatsapp/twitter/facebook/viber/... ? I don't care and I'm not going to waste any time looking through all the history of every app. If it doesn't exist in my email, to me it doesn't exist at all. Besides the order and ease of use, reliability and simple maturity, email is robust and doesn't care if I lose my phone or move to a public device... everything will be there the way I left it without having to care about backup software, syncing contacts. The business office suits are not just communication, but they keep my tasks/agenda/documents all in a bundle and whatever people say that it's "old", it's one of the most efficient and reliable ways of conducting business communication. The moment my bank or insurance company or even a supplier is forcing me to use intrusive 3rd party tools that don't allow me to select my own level of security, I'll be looking out at their competitors immediately. Zoho is one of the few companies that grasp this concept that people should be free of intrusion, free of ads and still enjoy a full featured range of great business apps that are available at low cost. On top of that, they have a great support service and they care about their customers and what they need/want. Kudos to Zoho, I hope they continue this way.

    1. I agree with the fact that services like Gmail can be very intrusive. The point you made about FB messenger having access to your entire phone especially on Android and people surprisingly not caring about it is well taken. Zoho's streams is a fitting answer to Slack, i just wish Zoho Sync would reliably work with my Outlook Desktop client. I like the cogent arguments you have made in defense of email and Zoho! (disclaimer: I on't work for Zoho but I am really impressed by what they have to offer)

  10. Slacking is a much better way, as the problem of threads are resolved. But what is good about mailing is accessibility offline. For slack that is an issue. For long and critical mails even when you are offline (due to many reasons) you can still type and reply your mail. If the slack can be interacted over mails too, or can be accessible offline, that will be great innovation. And most importantly app based.


  12. Good ideas and approach for information sharing. One difculty I have encounter is that in each tool I need to reintroduce the contacts I already have in CRM, and other tools. A master repository of all the people I share information (not all the people I have ever sent a mail) is required and one need to be able to ad/remove and edit entries. (naturally updates need to be reflected back to each tool that uses them.

  13. I like Zoho. That's why I pay for it. You guys are doing a good job. It's nice that you're trying and adding features like "following". But this "series" is almost counter-productive. As others have pointed out, it just comes across as "we're scared." The previous post was interesting in the branding ("Civil WAR!!"), but the content quite frankly missed the mark entirely. The difference between email and slack is not synchronous vs. asynchronous. And slack != "chat". Slack is all about UX and making common patterns effortless. It sits at a higher level conceptually than email. Email is a basic tool; Slack embodies how people use that tool and makes common patterns easier. I could set up email rules and create a smart folder called "Administrative" so that any email containing "#admin" in the title goes there. Do the same for technical, general, random, etc. and you have much of slack's functionality. Email is fast enough. Except that's a pain. Adding "#whatever" to the subject is a pain. Administering smart folders is a pain. And you don't get interactive suggestions when you type '@' or ':' to insert emoticons or whatever. Email vs. chat is irrelevant. The people at slack realized that it's all about user experience. Make 5 tiny-but-annoying things easy and you're gold. And the fight for attention is vital. Add all the features you like to Zoho Mail, but it won't make a dent. Produce a highly-polished user experience and package it separately as a new service. Otherwise nothing will change for Zoho. Good luck!

  14. Good. And the modern communication is slowly moving away from the traditional email. Its the time we need to explore the new tech and making it robust again.

  15. Um, how exactly was the first article "#TEAMSLACK" when it was bashing Slack and promoting email the entire time? You've just written TWO articles about how scared you are that your business is becoming irrelevant. Don't try and play this off like it was some kind of fair debate.

  16. While "appropriate use" of available technology is always in the eye of the beholder, for the last 20 years I have been unable to get employers to understand (ie, trust) solutions I have offered to improved processes, including putting forms on the website to collect data instead of re-entering "data" from unstructured text emails. That was an international client back in 1998 who finally agreed to let me create Outlook/Exchange forms to email to a couple thousand respondents. My point is that, for most I have worked with, the old emails and "new" instant messengers (and conference telephone calls) have continued to be the preferred corporate communications/collaboration tools, despite clear advantages of tools discussed here.

  17. Navaneeth, I've got more than a few contacts on the Net, and, being involved with emailing news and comments -- and, being new to Zoho -- I wonder if you could give me a hint: HOW MANY PERSONS (PER 24 HOURS) WOULD I BE ABLE TO SEND A (SINGLE) EMAIL TO -- with Zoho? Thanks.

  18. Nice piece of writing,. . . my first thoughts were, . . . "I need to promote Zoho email to everyone ". Although it is hard to change old email addresses... Here's something for you, if there is a very simple way to change, like keeping your old phone number and change phone providers. It would need to be very easy, straightforward, one click and its done. So all your old email addresses are picked up and directed to zoho. Anyway, Ive been at the keyboard way too long for a Sunday evening, so Ive probably gone way off topic. Respect & Good will, Nick. p.s. hope you don't mind me leaving a couple of links below, That just reminds me I have face-book, twitter, linked-in, etc, etc, and could do with one url point of contact. Yes. . Streams sounds great.

    1. Something of a workaround that can ensure that you still receive emails from your old address, is to set up your Zoho Mail by using your older address with IMAP/POP. That way, you get the best of both worlds. Try it out, let us know if that works for you. Regards, Navaneeth

  19. Zoho is the step in the right direction, except you have not ventured into Windows10 support as of yet. I am using a free server with WordPress because I have more options and can use my phone to make changes on the fly. I tried to do the same with SIte builder and it was a hit and miss in Edge Browser on a 5inch screen. I need a native app that I can download from within the store that does this more fluent including up to access the mail. Now here is another question, in my desktop it seems your not remembering the cookie after I validate the mobile code that should hold for MANY days.. Yea, try (1) session. Now my mobile version of edge on it doing exactly what you stated. It's remembered the session I don't even login. Honestly I am still bouncing back and forth to see which is a better host for my needs.

    1. Why do you insist in working with Edge? Try a multi-platform browser like Firefox, Chrome or Opera. I expect Zoho to make everything work for STANDARD BROWSERS first to reach to biggest amount of people. You can install any standard browser on your Windows, but nobody on Mac, Android, IOS, Linux, Unix, etc can install Edge... seems to me like this is a very low priority issue that you're dealing with.

  20. Not having ever used "Social Media", I can't really comment. It so happens I am able to communicate intelligently by e-mail, in either a grammatically correct form, or emoticon-strewn txt typ, and my ignorance of social media doesn't seem to have damaged my health to date, although I'm sure some smart-Alec out there will try to break something that works.

  21. Start working this feature, every day I found more and more usefull Thankyou so much ZOHO team !!! Probando la aplicación y maravillandome, dandole más y más uso. Gracias a todo el equipo ZOHO !!!

  22. Email was thought to be dead but came back strong. It's still one of the best tools for Marketers. Like we see with Zoho, email needs to evolve with time or it will be buried like the old Hotmail. Slack is not email and is a great tool to keep in touch with colleagues and throwing files around to share. Great to see Zoho being bold enough to bring up the comparison. When you are as good as Zoho, you can do it. The bottom line in a nutshell - We still need email, maybe more than before. And it doesn't mean we don't need snapchat.

  23. Great move with this email's improvement. Definitively on the right track. I would suggest to go further by inspiring yourself with the features that have been developed by Hiri ( ). They are really changing how email can be used, and I guess that it would very easy for Zoho, based on all the features that you have already developed, to copycat hiri's best practices.

  24. ...Also, when email services take surveys like this, they hide all the comments that have REAL weight for motivation to change it. You guys probably only are fishing for a specific issue YOU'RE having. You don't really care what we think. You just want you customers to do the work for you rather than hire people who would be MORE than happy to sort this out for you. But you're more concerned about job security than creating jobs.

  25. It's very simple. You don't have to sort through ARCHIVES of "bullshit" mail to communicate peer to peer messages on social media. Too bad diplomacy and republican ideals have merged into capitalism and segregation.

  26. Email can be improved in many ways for sure. Our users do not like using web pages for email, I've tried and tried. They like using desktop tools like Thunderbird. They are more snappy, they open faster, have 5x the features and abilities. The problem with a local desktop tool, is that you don't get the same experience when you need to go mobile or what have you. Just today I opened a fresh Chrome window, logged in to Zoho mail, clicked on a message, and it just sat there not opening for about 20 seconds. I then had to click around to different emails and then back to the one I wanted for it to "wake up". You don't get this kind of lag and buggy web experience when using a solid desktop tool. In any case, I'm just using Zoho mail myself so I can't use all these corporate-y business features. But I still use Slack, because it connects multiple organizations, or people, within a "network". Slack fills market where you need many collaborators who are not already using a common email domain. It's more ad-hoc but not as wide-open as email. As email addresses are public and anybody can try to send you something, Slack can be invite-only or on an approval system. I have a hard time finding where these situations overlap where one can take over the other. Slack can't take over email. Email is public, anybody can send an email if they know the address. Slack is more private, whether that private group is one company or more. Most of the time when I try to get our users to use ANY kind of new business tool or chat or project manager or ticket system, what do they do to use it? They have it notify them BY EMAIL for all changes to the data. Even if I got my users on Slack, they would want email notifications of new messages, completely defeating the purpose! Just look at this very comment system right on this article. What does it say? "Notify me of follow-up comments by email". How ELSE could this be done? The world still needs a system like email, but the email system needs a huge revamp I think.

    1. I'm told we're building it so that people who are on Zoho Mail can interact via Streams, without having to be in the same 'organization'. We'll keep you updated on the same. Thanks for being on board with Zoho Mail. Regards, Navaneeth

  27. My major complaint with Zoho is the lack of choice with its letter fonts when trying to dress up your email letterheads and styling, apart from that I am very happy with the system. to me and my company its if simple and convenient and requires no intelligents

    1. Hi Alfred, I agree with you and have brought this to the attention of the product development team. Usually, some 'critical' issues keep pushing stuff like this on to the back burner. Will try getting it expedited though. And thanks for being on board with Zoho Mail! Regards, Navaneeth

  28. Navaneeth... this is a great write! The first part was equally very good. Instant messaging for diverse intent and purposes will come and go, but email remains the professional tool for driving B2B communication. The Zoho mail team have really done a fantastic job with the mail suite + streams + chat... and not to forget the voice and video call, all right from within the inbox. Satisfying multiple needs within a single browser is a plus for me.

  29. Appreciations to Zoho Team: Streams name is nice. Yes definitely it is a short way to share our view instead of replying in email and Streams replaces forwarding email.

  30. If it aint broke then do not try to fix it, efforts to do so will eventually cause its failure. If you have a good product then develop something else continual tinkering with a good working model will inevitably ruin it, for good. As has happened on too many occasions in the past.

    1. That's definitely coming up Renato, a website overhaul pushed this back by a bit. Will keep you posted though, you should hear about it soon enough. And thanks for being on board with Zoho Mail! Regards, Navaneeth

  31. Zoho could learn a lot from Slack. Beautiful design makes it easy for users to want to use Slack. Zoho always seems to go cheap on design and U/X. Zoho is design-by-engineers. Zoho could be huge but for this fatal flaw.

    1. I have been using zoho mail for the past year. I can't _disagree_ more with you. Zoho mail is very cleanly and simply laid out. Just great design at work!

        1. And again, I have to disagree with you. Email is all about functionality, reliability, trustworthiness and security and not about look-and-feel. If you're getting your message across, it doesn't matter what tool or service you use. Looks may be important on first impression (just the way humans work), but they also fade really fast and that's when all the rest of the service starts shining bright. Zoho has an excellent service and is trustworthy unlike some other services that seem very appealing at first.

  32. I have contacted support for 2 days and no response. Can not receive e mail on my laptop but can receive thru my i-pad. no problem with gmail or yahoo.

  33. Interesting take on slack and workplace by creating Streams. Being based as an ESP beforehand could truly help, I'm sure, but there is something unprofessional about Slack and its kind. Yes, I take it that the world must change to some degree, but I check my emails way more frequently than I check Slack, albeit its straightforwardness. It's a brilliant tool, don't get me wrong, but it seems like it wouldn't really work in a large organization or at least in a cross-organizational work environment.

  34. Is always good to learn more about the changes, but we have to live with a large different people, and that changes are very good for some and very difficult to anothers.

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