Slack vs. Skype: Which Team Chat App Did We Choose?

Slack vs Skype

TLDR version: Skype’s main advantages are its price (free for all features), its notification system (Slack’s is buggy & lacking features), and its audio & video & screen-sharing capabilities. Slack’s main advantages are its integrations, its search capabilities, and its rich messaging.

In our company of over 50 remote employees, communication is critical. For years we’ve been using Skype as one of our primary methods of communication. In the past when we tested out alternatives to Skype (like Hipchat & Sococo), Skype always won.

In part because of Slack’s astronomical growth (launched August 2013, now with over 750,000 daily active users and a recent $2.8 billion valuation), we decided we needed to give it a shot ourselves.

Before making a decision on which team chat app to stick with, we tested Slack for 2 months with about half the company. The comparison that you’ll find below may not cover every aspect of Slack & Skype, but it does cover the aspects that actually mattered to us based on our real-world use of both pieces of software.

After our Slack trial, we surveyed everyone in the company who had used both pieces of software. The pros & cons below are based on all of our input.

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I’ll start with the benefits of Skype over Slack, then move onto the benefits of Slack over Skype (which you can jump ahead to HERE), and then I’ll let you know the reasons for our final verdict.

Advantages of Skype (disadvantages of Slack)

  1. It’s free. Slack has a free version also, but with limited features. More details here. Skype is always free.
  2. It allows audio & video calls. Slack tries to solve this problem by initiating calls on Skype or Google Hangouts, but it can be a small hassle to set up (I personally needed to contact Slack support to connect to Skype), you still need Skype, and if you’re chatting at the same time as talking (which is common for us) you need to use the two applications at the same time if you want all your chatting in one place (Slack) for documentation purposes.
  3. Can call/text regular phone numbers and Skype users from outside your company. With Slack it’s only possible to communicate with people in your own company.
  4. Better notifications. The most common complaint about Slack in our company was their buggy & deficient notification system. Here are a few of the differences:
    • Skype indicates the actual number of unread messages in each conversation, as well as the number of unread messages in the taskbar. Slack does not.
    • Skype sends notifications about messages received while a computer was asleep. Slack does not.
    • If you open Skype but leave some messages unread, you’ll still see in Skype’s taskbar icon that you have unread messages. With Slack you won’t.
    • Slack’s notifications are buggy and some notifications that are supposed to happen simply don’t.
  5. Can use Skype with no internet connection. You can see your contacts, read & search past messages, and type in new messages which will be automatically sent when your internet connection is restored. With Slack you can’t do anything without an active internet connection.
  6. Skype uses less system resources. A couple of our users reported that Slack was slowing down their computers.

Advantages of Slack (disadvantages of Skype)

  1. Integrations. Slack integrates with many pieces of software, allowing the other software that you use to post messages in your Slack conversations. For example in our company, we use Slack’s integration with Codeship to allow our developers to receive notifications via Slack when code updates occur. Slack also allows you to create custom integrations. We’ve even built one for Slack time tracking. Skype doesn’t integrate with any software that can post messages to Skype.
  2. Better search feature. Slack’s search feature is infinitely better than Skype’s. A few aspects of Slack’s search that are missing from Skype are:
    • The ability to search by date range, user, and other properties
    • The ability to search all conversations at once
    • Seeing all search results in a compact list, including an option to preview the surrounding conversation
    • The choice to sort by recency vs relevancy
    • Searching of files in addition to messages
    • Various filtering options
  3. Accurate online/offline indication. Skype is notorious for showing people as online when they’re not actually online. Slack doesn’t have that problem.
  4. Rich messaging. In Slack you can format text (i.e. bold), add code snippets, inline images, and more. Slack also has small features of messaging that make it nice to use. For example: color hex codes in messages automatically display a preview of the color, screencast.com links automatically show a thumbnail, etc. Skype only supports plain text messages and has fewer emoticons.
  5. Customer Support. Slack offers email support even for free plans. Skype offers no support.
  6. More customizable interface. Slack has more color options, sounds, and views than Skype.
  7. Email notifications. Slack can optionally email you if someone sends you a direct message or mentions you in a message when you’re offline. Skype sends no email notifications.

You can try Slack here. (This link also gives you $100 credit with Slack if you purchase the paid version.)

The Verdict

Our decision in the end was not between Slack alone or Skype. Since Slack is missing critical features that we need (audio/video calls, and the ability to communicate with people outside our company), our decision was whether to use Skype only, or whether to use BOTH Slack & Skype. The other alternative is to use Slack with Google Hangouts for voice and video chat.

I don’t think we can give a recommendation one way or the other. There is still a lot of debate in our team about which team chat app to use. We’re likely to continue to use both Skype and Slack for some departments in our company.

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A note on organization of contacts & groups in Skype

One area where there was no clear winner is organization. Conversations in Slack are more organized by default, but Slack allows limited customization. Skype has less organization by default, but allows certain types of customization that Slack doesn’t allow. Because the way to organize contacts in Skype isn’t intuitive, here’s how to do it:

Adding to Favorites and Renaming

Add to Favorites and Rename on Skype

“Favorites” and “Recent” Contacts

Favorites and Recent on Skype

What other startups chose

Softwaremill Software Solutions Provider

We’ve decided to go for Slack. And it was almost an unanimous decision, not so with HipChat or Skype. Some people around still think we should use IRC, but… well, no. We know there’s Flowdock and a flock of other communication tools, but for now Slack completely rocks and it seems we’ll stick to it.

FooPlugins, WordPress Plugin Developer

The FooPlugins.com team started using Slack a couple of months ago, and it has changed the way our company works.

Bunny Inc., Voice Over Marketplace

We like Slack because it allows us to have public, private, and one-on-one chats. It has a great mobile app that is smart enough to push you message notifications only when you’re away from your desktop.

Riddle, Content Creation Tool

Slack allows us to focus our daily attention on just one place to know everything that is going on within Riddle. The only time we leave Slack for communication is for our daily video calls for which Hangouts or Skype is still necessary.

Lucid Meetings, Online Meeting Service

Our team is small, but dispersed, and Slack and Skype are both always on, keeping us connected.

Impraise, Feedback Software

Opt for Skype and Hangout instead of Slack and Hipchat, if face-to-face discussions are not possible.

end of post

Justin Clark

Justin Clark

Justin Clark takes care of paid advertising & conversion rate optimization at Time Doctor - a time monitoring and productivity monitoring tool that is designed to help businesses reduce wasted hours at work and improve employee productivity. He is from Ottawa, Canada.

12 Comments

  • Sienna Amelia says:

    Thanks!!
    Communication is the name of the game for a business. The comparison of Slack vs Skype is good. Still, there are many communication tools to compare each other. Contus Fly is one of the best team collaboration tool helps to communicate and collaborate with the team more efficiently and easily.

  • JoAnee says:

    I am not a fan of Skype, nor Slack. I am using Brosix for my internal communication and am very satisfied with the product. Easy to use, has many features and is highly encrypted

  • Pramit Silwal says:

    Well, now lets get real. You are not gonna say Skype has better notifications, audio/video call and notifications. Because … Skype (for business which is the only comparable product to Slack for Teams) does not even have a good notification feature. Task bar? Man, Slack gives the right exact number of messages you have just received on your docker/ some bar of some PC sort.

    And how easy is to add channels in Skype? Yes people, organizations are made of groups, not just individuals. If you think a later generation IM platform like Slack DOES NOT have all the cool integrations (Im talking team integration like Jenkins, Jira; productivity tools like reminders, outlook integrations… i even wrote a tool to tell you whats the best spot near you for your lunch .. well kinda [the emphasis being I wrote it .. outta hobby] … THEN you clearly should believe this article. If youre sensible enough, jump aboard the Slack ship (try HipChat, heck!) be cool like rest of us for ….’s sake!

  • An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who
    had been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me lunch because I stumbled upon it for
    him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this subject here
    on your web chat site.

  • Chris Campbell says:

    Are you referring to standard Skype or Skype for Business when doing this comparison?
    We’re using Skype for business and I’m not clear how conversations behave in any comparible manner to Slack. We only have instant messaging conversations which will get stored in a conversation folder in my personal outlook .pst file (if I have it enabled for saving, which many do not) so I don’t see any way of searching a conversation other than that.

    • Pramit Silwal says:

      Hey Chris,
      I hear you. I worked at a place for 2 years. I got to know Slack there and I know why they keep airing those commercials – they are onto something. And NOW, I am using Skype for business for my new job place – which sucks ba!!s of all imaginable sorts. I think its the transition talking pardon my French. Slack’s got everything – IM (DM in Slack lingo), group chat, integrations, custom integrations, bots (friendly and those stickler ones – well you chose who to integrate.) Last time I checked Skype (for Business) does not even tell me when I received an IM. it just turns the windows status bar thingy highlighted (lame!). Try slack, you won’t be disappinted my friend. Heck I will even wager you a 50 bucks youll like it better. Wagering because I cant stand these articles, and 50 bucks seems reasonable. Best – Pramit

  • McCheeseFist says:

    Microsoft Teams is the answer now… and a ton cheaper than Slack with much more functionality/integration.

  • Loser says:

    “Skype offers no support.”
    Uh, support.skype.com There is chat and email support if you can’t find a solution too.

  • IPM says:

    Dear Time Doctor,

    what about comparison with rocket chat?

    Best regards,
    IM

  • David M says:

    Here’s a few of my own observations:

    “Skype uses less system resources” – My experience tells me that it is not true. Instead, I’ve found Skype eating up a ton of computer memory and CPU. My battery falls a lot quicker with it running, and it occasionally “beach-balls” and crashes. Slack by comparison has given me none of these issues.

    “[Skype has] Better notifications” – Knowing how many messages I have unread in a channel is trivial. Skype’s “all-or-nothing” approach to notifications is really unhelpful, especially if you’re in highly active groups with 50+ participants. I’d rather only be notified if a message is actually relevant to me – something that Slack does very well. The push-to-mobile if I’m AFK and email notifications with Slack are also rather handy.

    “With Slack it’s only possible to communicate with people in your own company.” – This is because Skype is not a team collaboration app. It was originally built as an Instant Messaging and VOIP service, which it plays to its strengths. Slack, by contrast, is a service explicitly intended for internal team/organisation communication. That said, if you want to use it to communicate with external users (clients, contractors, customers, etc.) then you can do so by inviting them as restricted guests to your Slack group. As it is fully supported in the browser, there is nothing for them to install. So that again makes this statement untrue.

    For teams (and especially developer teams), Slack is a fantastic collaboration and messaging app. I hear they’re working on Voice and Video calling, but for now, leave that to the services like Hangouts and Skype, which is what they’re built for. Comparing Slack vs. Skype is like comparing Apples to Oranges. I prefer Apples, personally, but the choice is down to personal preference, features offered, and affordability.

    • Justin Clark Justin Clark says:

      Hi David, thanks for your input. I want to respond to one thing you wrote:

      “Skype’s “all-or-nothing” approach to notifications is really unhelpful, especially if you’re in highly active groups with 50+ participants.”

      Granted that I’m not a part of highly active Skype groups with that many participants, but I don’t find Skype’s approach to notifications to be “all-or-nothing”… I have notifications turned off for some groups completely, on for others, and for others I have Skype set to notify me only when certain words are mentioned (like my name, for example).

  • Roz Bahrami says:

    At my company we use slack and for my own personal use I use Skype. Slack has all the capabilities we need for work because we just send each other a quick message when we don’t want to disturb the other persons work flow and it’s so mobile friendly. I use skype only if i’m trying to contact long distance. Overall, I like using slack more because it’s just a good instant messaging tool, I like the feel more as well.

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