Slack Acquires Screenhero… and Joins the WebRTC Ecosystem

January 29, 2015

Unified Communication eaten by Messaging?

Funny how timing is. Right after I publish a post on NoJitter about how Unified Communications vendors don’t understand their own market (hint: companies like Slack & HipChat as competitors), to some criticism – and Slack “decides” to conveniently join the game by acquiring Screenhero.

Screenhero acquired by Slack

To be clear, I am using Slack, but I have never been in contact with any of their people. I have been following Screenhero since 2013, but never really talked to them either.

Who’s Slack?

Slack does project management. They solve the problem of communicating inside an organization.

Chris Kranky wrote about it, so I won’t repeat it here.

I liked this explanation best:

What’s more to say? If you want to solve communications you need search. Unified Communications doesn’t have any real search to speak of.

One of the disadvantages of Slack was its lack of real time voice/video communications when needed. Voice and video are now solved (to some extent).

Who’s Screenhero?

Screenhero is a WebRTC based startup that built a collaborative screensharing service.

It started as doing screensharing exclusively and then added voice into it.

The Screenhero team made modifications to the codebase of WebRTC and packaged it as a app just to fit it to their use case. It will be interesting to see if Slack will “leave it as is” or try to implement it on top of the browser’s WebRTC implementation natively instead.

There’s more details about the acquisition on Screenhero’s blog.

For me, they are still a WebRTC vendor.

Why is this important?

We’re just in January and we’re at our first WebRTC acquisition of the year.

This acquisition is all about technology and has nothing to do with market share or business models. Slack needed the capability of realtime collaboration and now it has it. Notice the title of Screenhero’s CEO, Sherwani, is now “Director of Realtime Communication Products”? This can easily progress to video sessions if Slack so chooses.

This is another area where a seemingly unrelated service targeted at the enterprise veers towards unified communications and it does that by using WebRTC. In this case through an acquisition. The basis of unified communications is now a lot easier to implement with WebRTC, downgrading it from a service to a feature. Unified communications players should start thinking seriously how do they maintain their market position, which involves reaching to adjacent domains and not sticking to what they know.

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