Slack is one of the biggest cloud-based instant messaging platforms in the world. Started in 2013 as an internal communication tool by Stewart Butterfield, Eric Costello, Cal Henderson and Serguei Mourachov, it soon became a product for the external market and is now used daily by more than 10 million people.
With everything that Slack has to offer, users don’t actually need to consider a change, but for those who like to experiment or simply don’t feel comfortable with Slack having access to all your company’s data, there are some really good Slack alternatives out there.
In this review, we’ll compare some of the most popular alternatives — including Twist, Discord, Rocket.Chat and many more — in terms of features and pricing. We’ll also have a look at some of the most popular open-source alternatives.
What Is Slack?
Simply put, Slack is a chat app that enables you to communicate with your team via messaging. No matter if you want to work with your team on an important sales presentation or if you use Slack for your science project at college, its core function stays the same.
The platform itself is designed to replace emails through messages and centralize all communication in the most important channels. You can also message your team members directly or open so-called “private” invite-only channels. Besides, you can upload files, start chat threads and much more. Slack comes with a desktop app and a mobile app.
The 7 Best Slack Alternatives
- RingCentral Video
Now that we talked a bit about Slack, let’s talk about its alternatives. In the following chapter, we’ll discuss several chat services and directly compare their functions and pricing with Slack’s.
The first provider in our comparison is called Twist. Above all, Twist wants to stand out from Slack in the way people use it to communicate. Slack can easily become a distraction, especially with larger teams. On top of that, it’s quite difficult to search for specific messages, and information quickly gets lost.
Twist, therefore, doesn’t focus on real-time communication. Instead, it lets teams communicate in their own flow and velocity, and it structures the messages more clearly. It even has an entire page on its homepage explaining the difference.
Twist Key Features
Twist organizes conversations in so-called “threads,” which are a mixture of email and messaging where the focus, again, is not on being available in real time. Threads are the core feature of Twist and allow you to orchestrate your communication by topics. Its interface, however, reminds us of Microsoft Outlook.
Another useful feature that Twist comes with is disabling notifications. You can do this with Slack, too, but it’s easier to set up in Twist and your team members will see that your account is “off shift,” so to say.
Twist has two different plans, which makes its pricing pretty straightforward.
|$0.00||$5 per user per month|
The free plan gives you access to your chat and comment history for a month. It also allows up to five different third-party integrations, and the entire workspace has 5GB of file storage. You can use the free plan for an unlimited amount of time, and your previous messages won’t be deleted. If you need to access these messages, you can simply upgrade your plan.
The Unlimited package comes with monthly costs of $5 per user, and it allows you to access your entire chat history, integrate as many third-party apps as you want and have unlimited file storage.
The second provider in our best Slack alternatives article is Discord. Primarily made for gamers, it enjoys increased popularity today among engineers and other digital experts. Its in-built voice and chat functions make it particularly useful for teams working on more complex projects.
Discord Key Features
With TeamSpeak being its biggest competitor, Discord’s mission is to revolutionize the way gamers communicate during hour-long raids and matches. Nevertheless, you can use it for all kinds of things.
There are private and public servers, depending on how you want to use Discord. With public servers, as the name suggests, anyone can join or leave the server. With private servers, that’s not the case.
That being said, Discord is not only a pure chat and gaming tool, it also helps you to build forums and communities, plus orchestrate larger teams. Like with all other providers in this article, the communication is separated into channels and direct messages.
Discord comes with the following plans:
|Billing Period:||Free||Discord Nitro Classic||Discord Nitro|
|When billed annually||$0.00||$4.16 (per user per month)||$8.33 (per user per month)|
|When billed monthly||$0.00||$4.99 (per user per month)||$9.99 (per user per month)|
First of all, Discord comes with an amazing free plan, but there are also a few upgrades for your server and extended chat functions that you can buy. The upgrades are mostly distinguished between server-side upgrades and additional features. Depending on what features you’re looking for, you’d need to choose the right plan.
While the Discord Nitro plan includes both better server and chat functions, the Discord Nitro Classic plan only covers the latter.
Flock calls itself the number-one team messenger. That’s a strong statement for a company with the mission to basically underprice Slack. We couldn’t find out how many people actually use Flock.
Flock Key Features
Flock offers the most important chat features that Slack does. It provides a few things that Slack doesn’t, but some of those are useless, in our opinion. For example, Flock gives you the ability to prevent certain members from leaving a channel.
Another feature is the “read by” option, which means that you can see who has or hasn’t read your message. You can also enable notifications when employees come online. The built-in GitHub integration is also useful, but it’s nothing you can’t set up or integrate into Slack.
However, the “read by” function is a break of trust and not really useful if you want to build camaraderie within a team, if you ask us.
Flock’s founder, Bhavin Turakhia, an Indian billionaire, advertises Flock as being a cheaper version of Slack. Once again, it becomes clear that Flock is very aggressive on pricing. Among other things, it has a page where it directly compares Slack and Flock.
According to its website, Flock is up to 64 percent cheaper than Slack. After doing some digging, though, we found out that it compares the smallest Flock plan with the largest Slack plan. Flock has three levels of pricing: the Starter plan, Pro plan and Enterprise plan.
|Billing Period:||Starter Plan||Pro Plan||Enterprise Plan|
|When billed annually||$0.00||$4.50 per user per month||$8 per user per month|
|When billed monthly||$0.00||$6 per user per month||$10 per user per month|
4. RingCentral Video (Formerly Glip)
Glip is now rebranded as RingCentral Video. In 2015, Glip was acquired by RingCentral, a cloud-communications provider from California, and it has been an integral part of its service portfolio ever since.
RingCentral Video Key Features
Like almost every other Slack alternative, RingCentral Video has its own website page where you can compare it with its competitors. Unlike other providers, it brings a comparison that actually makes sense.
If you compare the free plans of RingCentral Video and Slack, you will see that the free version of RingCentral Video beats the free version of Slack. With many unlimited features, it can be helpful to use RingCentral Video, especially for smaller teams.
What’s particularly great here is that both the free and paid versions of RingCentral Video come with a task manager and calendar that you can work with as a team.
In RingCentral Video, you can create a task, set a deadline and have dashboards where all your tasks are visible at a glance. These features make collaboration in a team much easier. To replicate such a setup with Slack, you might need a Trello board, as well.
RingCentral Video Pricing
RingCentral Video’s pricing plan is pretty straightforward. It comes with a free and paid version.
|When billed annually||$0.00||$60 per user|
|When billed monthly||$0.00||$5 per user|
The free version comes very close to the paid version, feature-wise. The only real obstacle you’re going to face on a free plan is the fact that RingCentral Video limits the video-chat function to 500 minutes. If you want to continue using this feature after 500 minutes, you will need to upgrade to its Standard (paid) plan.
However, you will also get RingCentral Video’s data retention policy and compliance exports only by switching to a paid plan.
At first sight, RingCentral Video looks like one of the cheaper Slack alternatives. However, here comes the sore truth: if you want to switch to its paid plan, you first have to create a RingCentral account.
After we talked to its support, it turns out that a RingCentral account isn’t free. How much exactly you have to spend per month for such an account is unclear. You will also need a RingCentral account to install the service on your Mac or Windows device.
Open-Source Slack Alternatives
Now that we have talked about paid versions in detail, we would like to discuss the best open-source Slack alternatives.
Open-source software is great. If you are tech-savvy, you can adapt and extend the existing chat platforms according to your wishes. Another good thing about open-source software is that you can install the platform on your own server if you don’t want a third party to have access to your data.
Rocket.Chat is one of many open-source alternatives to Slack. You can use Rocket.Chat with its cloud and pay for it, or you can download and install it on a server yourself. The latter would require you to have some kind of hosting solution ready (check out our web hosting review).
Rocket.Chat Key Features
The Rochet.Chat app mostly looks like Slack and doesn’t differ much in its features. Rocket.Chat offers two features we’d like to highlight in particular.
The first one is the Slack importer, which allows you to migrate your data from Slack directly to Rocket.Chat. The other is a chat widget: you simply insert a piece of code into your website and will be able to chat with your website visitors through Rocket.Chat.
You can also customize your platform and tailor its exact look and feel by adding or removing features and selecting your own integrations, plugins and themes — basically all the advantages an open-source platform comes with.
As we already mentioned, you can use Rocket.Chat through its cloud or by hosting it yourself. If you host it on your own server, Rocket.Chat comes with the following plans:
|When billed annually||$0.00||$2.5 per user per month|
|When billed monthly||$0.00||$3 per user per month|
The free Community plan allows you to have up to 1,000 users and doesn’t limit you in terms of messaging or accessing your message history. It also doesn’t limit you in the number of third-party integrations.
You can even use Rocket.Chat for conference calls, but on a shared server. If you would like your conferences to be held on a dedicated server, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro plan.
The Pro plan costs $3 per user per month if you’re billed monthly and $30 per user per year if you’re billed annually. It unlocks a decent number of features, like the multi-language interface, and it comes with support. Both plans run on every common operating system.
If you want to use Rocket.Chat through its cloud, you can choose between the following packages:
|When billed annually||$1.66 per user per month||$3.33 per user per month|
|When billed monthly||$2 per user per month||$4 per user per month|
The smallest cloud-based plan, the Bronze plan, gives you 1TB of storage, five third-party integrations and covers the most important chat basics for you and your team. It comes with basic support, daily analytics and backups.
The Silver plan is the second-biggest option and costs a bit more than the Bronze plan. It costs $4 per month per user when billed monthly or $40 per user per year when billed annually.
You get up to 5TB of storage for your team, plus you can integrate 100 third-party applications into your Rocket.Chat workspace and you can set it up with a custom domain.
There’s also a Gold plan, which requires you to contact the Rocket.Chats sales team to get tailored pricing. You get 20TB of storage and up to 1,000 integrations, plus your analytics reports and backups are done hourly.
You get the Rocket.Chats best support your money can buy, which means you can talk to Rocket.Chat’s product team, have dedicated onboarding calls and much more.
Zulip started as a small open-source project and was bought by Dropbox in 2014. Dropbox decided to continue offering the service as open-source software. With a very active community, Zulip is a notable open-source Slack alternative.
Zulip Key Features
Unlike Slack, Zulip allows communication in so-called “topics.” Each channel (in Zulip, they are called “streams”) has several sub-topics that allow you to simplify communication. It’s a useful feature, especially for larger teams.
Another advantage of Zulip is that it’s open-source and if you want to add a new feature, you can either develop it yourself or simply suggest it to the community with good chances that it’ll be implemented.
Similar to Rocket.Chat, Zulip also has two pricing models: one when you use it with its cloud and one when you install it locally on your own server. Zulip’s cloud service comes with a free plan and a paid plan.
|When billed annually||$0.00||$6.67 per user per month|
|When billed monthly||$0.00||$8 per user per month|
The two plans differ in terms of functions. The free plan limits you to 5GB of storage for the entire workplace and you can only access the last 10,000 messages, just like Slack’s free plan. If you upgrade to Zulip’s Standard plan, the limit will be removed and your storage will increase to 10GB per user.
If you want to install Zulip yourself, you can choose between the Community Edition and the Enterprise Edition. While the Community Edition is and will remain free of charge, the Enterprise Edition comes with a fee.
The Community and Enterprise Editions don’t differ when it comes to functionality, but they do differ in support. With the Enterprise Edition, your tickets will be prioritized, and you will get better and faster help.
All in all, Zulip is an average service that brings a little more structure to the way people communicate, but that’s about it.
Last but not least, let’s talk about Mattermost. Mattermost was founded in 2011 as an internal chat app, because at that time (before Slack was developed), the developers with SpinPunch, a video game company, were not really satisfied with the available chat programs at that time.
Mattermost was later made available to the public in 2015 as an open-source chat option.
Mattermost Key Features
The Mattermost credo, above all, is to move away from SaaS chat apps. Based on their personal experience, the developers had problems with existing SaaS apps (they had to pay money to get access to their data, among other things). That is why they decided to build Mattermost, following their own Mattermost manifesto.
Anyone who reads the manifesto understands that Mattermost would like to distinguish itself from Slack and other vendors, above all, in terms of data protection and not in terms of functionality. The first point, in particular — “never locked-in” — is clearly reflected in the corporate strategy of Mattermost.
Mattermost is available on Linux, Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.
With Mattermost offered as open-source, you can install three different versions: the Team Edition, the Enterprise E10 plan and the Enterprise E20 plan. While the Team edition is completely free, the following prices apply to the other two plans.
|Billing Period:||Team Edition||Enterprise E10||Enterprise E20|
|When billed annually||$0.00||$3.25 per user per month||$8.50 per user per month|
Unlike the previous open-source alternatives, there is no cloud version of Mattermost, which is self-explanatory if you’ve read its history and manifesto.
With the free version, you get the most important chat features. If you upgrade to Enterprise E10, you will also get support within the next business day, the ability to invite guest accounts to your workplace and other technical features.
If you want to create team-based permissions, have data center support or receive help with your compliance policy, you will need to upgrade to Enterprise E20.
Slack Key Features
Here’s an overview of the most important key features of Slack, which we used as a basis for comparing it with other options.
- Communication in channels: as we already mentioned, all communication in Slack can happen in channels or in private messages. Channels are especially useful for larger teams.
- Shared channels across workspaces: if you’re working on a project with another company, you can easily create shared channels across workspaces. This allows you to funnel the communication with people outside of your organization in one place. This feature, however, is only part of paid plans.
- File-share: you can upload, track, manage and comment on files that you can share with your team.
- Pinning messages: this is a key feature for bigger companies where messages are lost easily. When you pin a message, you basically highlight it in the channel and make sure everyone sees it.
- Advanced search and modifiers: with all the communication happening in one place, things can quickly get messy. That’s where advanced search modifiers come in handy because they allow you to search more specific information (e.g., certain dates, channels and much more).
- Setting reminders: reminders are a good way to keep track of what is important and to remind yourself of events or deadlines.
- Integrate third-party apps: Slack also allows you to integrate third-party apps — such as Google Drive, Trello, Zapier and lots of other useful stuff — to automate certain processes.
- Voice and video calls: with Slack’s free plan, you can do one-to-one calls (voice and video). If you upgrade to a paid plan, you can also share your screen during calls and start audio or video conferences with more people.
The features we mentioned in our list are impressive, and Slack has even more to offer, but we wanted to focus on the most important ones.
Slack’s pricing is pretty simple, as you can see in the table below.
|When billed annually||$0.00||$6.67 per user per month||$12.50 per user per month|
|When billed monthly||$0.00||$8 per user per month||$15 per user per month|
The free plan is for smaller teams who want to try out Slack. The service is free for an unlimited period of time, but it limits your access to your chat history. With this plan, you have access only to the last 10,000 messages.
It also limits the number of third-party apps per workspace. When you open a Slack workspace on the free plan, you really need to trust your team members. That’s because you can set certain permissions only for the #general-channel, which is the standard channel that comes with each new workspace.
The Standard plan is billed $6.67 per month for every active user, if you choose to be billed annually. On a month-to-month basis, however, it’s $8 per month for every active user. On a yearly basis, you’ll pay either $80.04 or $96 per user.
On this plan, you’re able to search through your entire chat history and integrate an unlimited number of third-party apps. Your file storage for Slack also gets an upgrade. While on the free plan, you’re limited to 5GB in total, but with the Standard plan, every team member gets 10GB. You also get 24/7 support, instead of standard support.
The Plus package costs $12.50 per month per active user when billed annually, while the month-per-month option costs $15. That being said, you’d pay between $150 and $180 per user per year on this plan.
This package gives you 20GB of file storage per user, priority support — including in-language support during regional business hours — and much more.
Last but not least, there is the Enterprise Grid plan, which allows you to run multiple workspaces and have tailored support with a designated customer success team, but it also comes with a tailored price tag.
This was our detailed comparison of the best Slack alternatives. Ironically, for vendors that offer software designed to simplify communication in teams, some of them struggle quite a bit to communicate with the outside world.
We all know that Slack is awesome to use and has a lot of features, but its competitors have some good and useful features to offer, too. If you’re looking for a great, free Slack alternative, check out Discord.
Those who want to have full control over their communication and data should rely on open-source software. Among the open-source providers, we especially recommend Rocket.Chat and Mattermost.
Do you use one of the Slack alternatives mentioned here, or do you think Slack is the real deal? Did we forget a competitor? Please let us know in the comments, and thank you for reading.