Chat tools vendors Slack and Atlassian last week announced a partnership where Atlassian's two ChatOps apps, Hipchat and Stride would be shut down and the existing users could migrate onto Slack. Atlassian also agreed to a financial investment in Slack as part of the terms. A lack of competition in the ChatOps space seems detrimental on the surface, however, it could be the best thing for the sector long term.
Why This is a Good Thing
The value of any ChatOps app isn't limited to the instant messaging or group chat capabilities. The tools shine brightest when the third party integrations are leveraged and additional functionality can be centralized within the chat experience. Simple examples of this are pulling in GIFs and creating simple polls. I've been on teams where we used the poll app for real and silly questions. Important business functions which tie into CI/CD pipelines that provide notifications when code is checked in, builds are completed, and other activities can be invaluable for both realtime communication and when doing troubleshooting. The value of these add-ons is felt when you use other tools that lack them. Modern chat apps are platforms upon which simple and complex actions can be integrated.
The contraction of players in the industry will allow vendors and freelancers to concentrate efforts onto the remaining big ChatOps players - Slack and Microsoft Teams. This should lead to better designed apps with better, more robust features and improved stability. Furthermore, any vendor who was sitting on the fence overwhelmed with choice, can go forward feeling more secure with the investment in time and resources. Fewer big ChatOps vendors mean more customers on each of the platforms and a greater potential pool of customers for the add-ons. This is the equivalent of being able to develop and deploy to the Apple and Android app stores.
The current culture in the tech industry instructs companies to "fail fast." If an idea, product, or service isn't doing as intended, then the company should move onto other ideas. Atlassian appears to have been faced with this decision once before and chose to move away from HipChat onto a newly designed app called Stride. Transitions like that can be tricky to manage as most customers who face a migration use the opportunity to explore other tools on the market. My guess (and this is only a guess) is that when Atlassian evaluated the current state of their apps, they decided to end them both and go in another direction. And in this case, that's OK as most people know of Atlassian though the JIRA Agile planning tool, the Bamboo CI/CD tool, or the Confluence Wiki platform. These are fairly well used tools and some more programming muscle behind them seem like a solid idea. Combine the mind-share of the current tools, having to face Microsoft's free version of Teams, the current market dominating position of Slack, and an exit seems like a reasonable option.
Phelan, David. “Slack Buys Hipchat To Take On Microsoft Teams: What It Means.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 July 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/davidphelan/2018/07/27/slack-buys-hipchat-to-take-on-microsoft-teams-what-it-means/#19d426570f18.
Kumparak, Greg. “Atlassian's HipChat and Stride to Be Discontinued, with Slack Buying up the IP.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 26 July 2018, techcrunch.com/2018/07/26/atlassians-hipchat-and-stride-to-be-discontinued-with-slack-buying-up-the-ip/.