It’s no secret: messaging apps are a dime a dozen in 2017. With the decline of instant messaging clients in the mid-2000s, it seemed most users were headed towards an exclusively SMS and MMS-based communication system. Though applications like AIM and Skype continued to exist on desktop and early smartphones, most smartphone users stuck with what they had grown used to with phones: using basic text messages to communicate with other users.
While texting is no doubt still a main feature of the application, a few things have led to the resurrection of messaging applications that don’t rely on using phone numbers for communication. First, both Apple’s iMessage service, first released to users in 2011 with iOS 5, and Facebook’s Messenger app have led to a rise in instant messaging apps. Both of these apps had built-in user bases, with Facebook’s massively popular social network including the chat service in the main application before spinning it out on its own, where it has since earned more than a billion downloads on Android alone, and Apple’s own iPhone-owning community, which makes up a large percentage of the smartphone-owning community, especially in the United States. And while iMessage requires its users to have an iOS or MacOS device, Facebook’s messaging platform works on nearly every computing device.
With the rise of those two platforms, we’ve seen chat applications become more and more popular over the past five years. Every company seems to want in on the messaging game, and the list of popular messaging apps on both iOS and Android essentially function as word soup. WhatsApp has seen massive popularity with global users, and WeChat is the messaging app to use in China. Other apps like GroupMe, Vibe, LINE, and Telegram have all built up solid communities, and social networks like Twitter and Snapchat have also built chat methods into their apps for communicating with other users. Even Google has gotten into the messaging madness, with Google Hangouts, Google Allo, and Android Messages all co-existing at once on multiple platforms, each with their own distinct use.
But while apps like Telegram or Kik may catch your eye in the Play Store, two other chat apps have been on the rise for quite some time. Both Slack and Discord have gained notoriety on the web for their specific use cases and features. Both apps have been covered by journalists and news publications extensively, and are available on nearly every platform you would use today, making them a great choice for users looking for a platform-agnostic choice in their chatting application. But deciding which app is right for you really comes down to what you want to do with your messaging applications. Both Slack and Discord are fully featured, mature platforms for communicating, but which one is right for you? Read on for our full guide below.
Whether you’ve heard of Slack really depends on how much time you spend reading the thoughts of journalists and other professionals. Though Slack hasn’t caught on with the general public in the same way we’ve seen messaging solutions like Facebook Messenger or iMessage grow in popularity, the app is widely popular with businesses, journalists, and other team-based users looking for a method of communicating with their teams while also being able to share files, images, and other media. In many ways, Slack isn’t just a messaging app—it’s a full cloud-based productivity suite built for businesses and professionals to communicate with their team members and fellow employees. But don’t let its professional attire fool you: Slack is great for personal use, too. Let’s take a look at the full Slack experience, and what you can expect to see when using this app with your friends and coworkers alike.
Slack’s history begins, strangely enough, not as a product itself, but as an internal tool used during the development of Glitch, an indie browser-based MMO game released back in 2011 by development team Tiny Speck. The game was the first release from Tiny Speck, but the team contained a couple high-profile developers, most notably Stewart Butterfield, the co-creator of image sharing website Flickr. Though Glitch was well-received by critics and players alike upon its release in September 2011, the app reverted back to beta status in November and eventually shut down in December 2012. Though Glitch was a short-lived experiment, the tool Tiny Speck had developed alongside the application had evolved into their main product. Butterfield and the rest of his team realized they were onto something with their in-house communication system, and after downsizing the development team to just ten core members, began work on Slack, or “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.”
Although a general communication app, Slack was truly aimed at taking over email and other productivity apps businesses use daily. From the start, the company, media, and publishers alike all positioned the app as an “email killer,” something that could be used to completely remove the need to email your coworkers daily for contact. With the ability to sort your messages and conversations into channels, sync with your already-existing software like Microsoft Office, and support for a wide variety of file types and uploads, it’s no wonder teams have found Slack perfect for their workflow. But it Slack the app for you? And what makes it so special? Though the app takes some time to get used to, with a fairly steep learning curve for new users, it’s also one of the most powerful office and productivity apps we’ve seen on the market today, with a rich featureset that makes using the app a breeze—and at times, a burden as well.
Once you’ve set up your Slack team’s custom URL for chatting, each user can create and sign into their account and into your team’s workplace. Slack supports two-factor authentication, which is good for users looking to keep their accounts secure and safe. Once you’ve loaded into an application, you’ll see the main interface for Slack, as well as what the app is primarily known for: channels. Using hashtags similar to Twitter, Slack allows you to create multiple channels within a single URL for communication, meaning both management and teams can have their own chat services, allowing for communication to occur organically and with only the people who need to be involved with a conversation.
Slack’s hashtag system for channels is based off of IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, an older online-based chat program dating back to the 1990s in terms of general usage. Though IRC has been steadily in decline for nearly a decade and a half, the ideas utilized by IRC in the heyday of the protocol is still seen in chat-based apps like Slack, including the ability to maintain persistent, always-active chat rooms, options for private groups and rooms, and the ability to send DMs (direct messages) to specific users outside of channels. Slack isn’t built off of an IRC protocol, however; instead, the cloud-based app uses a proprietary backend system for maintaining your messages.
In terms of channels, it allows a group to have multiple messages going on at once. This might sound limited to certain 9 to 5 businesses, but organizing your chats through this method are far easier to read that you would otherwise expect. This means you can divide your workforce into teams, allowing them to chat about their specific project or goal without distracting other teams and team members from their work. But it doesn’t stop at basic jobs: college students in charge of their club’s’ executive boards can use Slack to manage communication between specific projects and eBoard members, classmates can use the program to organize their projects and send files between each other, and large groups of friends can even use Slack as a powerful messaging app without worrying about spilling their plans between different users. Channels are fairly flexible when it comes to visibility and features. A channel can be set to private or public, allowing anyone who wants to join to enter the conversation—or, on the other hand, stopping certain users from being able to access that specific channel. And as mentioned, direct messages also exist to allow users to reach out to each other directly without having to open a new channel of communication.
Though the channels method in Slack is powerful, a messaging app is only as good as the actual act of messaging. Luckily for anyone looking for a cloud-based messaging suite, Slack is not just competent at messaging—it’s excellent. In addition to the channel and private messaging features discussed above, Slack also supports VoIP and video calls between users. The app on web and mobile as a slick interface, allowing for answering phone calls quickly and easily without much effort. Because the calls are made right within Slack, there’s no exchange of contacts or outside links to communicate over a voice or video call. These calls can take place within both public and private channels, as well as within a direct message between two users.
The basic chat interface is pretty simple to use, especially on mobile. Your available channels are open to the left of of the messaging window. Your starred channels are available at the top of the display, which allow you to quickly access your favorite channels within the app. Listed below your channels are any and all direct messages you’ve shared with others. Along the bottom of the app are options for setting your online status and availability, allowing you to mute or hide yourself as you would in any other online application. The main chat interface takes up the majority of the app on both mobile and desktop, with an inline view of everyone’s conversations. The channel name is displayed at the top of the screen, and every user has their own avatars and chat colors below to designate who’s speaking and when. Finally, on desktop, you can open a file sharing view to the right of messages, allowing for content to be shared within the app easily without using your computer’s file browser.
Within the chat view, a taskbar along the bottom of the display gives you options for using the basic chat interface to communicate. Six different icons along the bottom of the display give you options to send different files and other media to your other channel users. A permanent emoji icon allows you to select and view from Slack’s own emoji library, though you can also use your own device’s emoji collection if you’d rather access them from your keyboard of choice. A shortcut to your device’s camera (on mobile) allows you to take and send a picture right from your own device’s camera interface. You can also select images from your gallery using the third icon from the left. Slack’s wide support for file types is no secret, and attaching a file allows you to open all of your recent images within your device. Files are also viewable within your device’s own file system, so it’s easy to share anything you need to give to your team or organization.
The final two buttons within Slack’s toolbar allow you to quickly enter commands and tags. Entering a command is accomplished by using the “slash” (/) command within your text. This will suggest a list of tags for you to use to communicate with your group or change how Slack operates. For example, /apps opens the app directory inside Slack, while /dm allows you to begin a direct message to another user. Tags, meanwhile, function like a tag on Twitter or Facebook: type an at (@) symbol, which will load a list of usernames and contacts within that Slack channel, allowing you to tag them in a message. This will alert the user they’ve been tagged in a message automatically. Overall, Slack’s messaging UI is solid, with a professional appearance without coming off as too boring or monotone. It’s an app that allows you to communicate with friends and coworkers alike, without either conversation appearing out of place.
Tools and Features
One of the biggest features we’ve yet to touch on is Slack’s search ability, which is built into every channel and makes it easy to find messages, users, and more within the app. By selecting the search icon within a channel, you can view both your search history and any suggested filters for finding a message you’re looking for. Though there’s a learning curve to Slack, being able to properly utilize Slack’s search functionality is one of the key components to properly using the app to its full potential. For example, searching from:me inside a channel will load every message and file you’ve ever sent within the app, but sending from:@(username) will load every message from a specific user. Slack’s dev team seem to understand this feature can be difficult to learn, and the search feature seems to suggest filters for you to use. The search tag will automatically allow you to search every message from the person who last sent a message inside that channel, for example, or every message from the past thirty days of communication. You can even search for starred messages by using has:star, which means stars can act like saved messages.
Files are also searchable, and you can use the same tag system detailed above to search through files. This makes it easy to find a planning document sent by your boss or project leader, or a poster mockup sent by someone in your group’s leadership. Searching through content within Slack is one of the best features it offers, making it easy to find a message or document necessary to continue your job. And since you can search by channel individually, finding messages is a lot easier than if everything was in one big chat group.
Slack also has a few miscellaneous features built into the app for ease of use. The desktop app supports screen sharing in video calls, allowing for Slack to be used as a presentation tool in addition to its communication standards. Guest accounts are also available within Slack, so that external vendors, freelancers, and temporary users can access their necessary channels without having to be granted full access to your Slack workspace. App support for Slack was briefly mentioned above, but it’s worth drawing more attention to: Slack has a large library of third party apps that can plug into Slack on desktop, including file management through Google Drive, source code file sharing through GitHub, and the ability to track your sales numbers right through Slack with Salesforce. These add-ons and bots are incredibly powerful tools for users and businesses to take advantage of, and can seriously save time throughout normal use.
One place Slack does fall short in is its customization. For better or worse, the app looks more or less the same for every user, without the ability to change the colors of menus or the general interface, making it difficult to customize and make the app feel like it’s your own. Slack also doesn’t allow you to work in more than one workspace at once, so if you’re a freelancer involved in multiple Slack groups, you’ll be switching between the two accounts often in order to juggle the two groups.
Platforms and Pricing
Unsurprisingly, Slack is available on desktop, web, and mobile clients, with the dedicated desktop application being the most powerful and robust of the three. Dedicated apps for iOS and Android keep you connected on the go, and desktop apps for both Windows and MacOS make sure you’re logged in no matter what operating system you prefer. Linux users can download the beta desktop application for their machines, while Chrome OS users will have to rely on the web client for their chatting. That said, the web client can perform most of the same tasks as its dedicated siblings.
Slack, like most other chat applications on the market today, operates on a freemium model. For most users and organizations, the app is free, with support for up to 8,462 users per channel. For free users, Slack limits some of the app’s abilities, including only allowing 10,000 messages to be searched within a workspace and limiting your apps to ten third-party integrations. Signing up for a paid account—either with Slack’s standard or Plus pricing—unlock new features that most non-business users won’t care much about. Guest access is included in both plans, as is Google account authentication (as opposed to signing up for a standard Slack account) and the ability to implement mandatory two-factor authentication. Group video calls and screen sharing are only available in the Standard and Plus plans; free users can only access one-on-one calls. Finally, paying Slack’s standard plan unlocks 10GB of cloud storage for each user, and the Plus account doubles that to 20 for each team member. The free plan, meanwhile, only supplies 5GB of storage for all users, a noticeable decrease in storage.
The majority of small teams and basic users will likely be able to stick on the free plan without missing out on too many advanced features and utilities. For business use, small and local businesses will probably find the Standard plan fits well. Slack charges per user on both monthly and annual bases, making it an expensive plan depending on how many team members you have working within a workspace. The standard plan runs you $6.67 per user per month, meaning a team of 15 users will be looking at spending about $100 per month on the annual plan (in other words, $1200 annually). If you wish to pay monthly instead of yearly, you can, but the price increases to $8 per user per month, meaning that same team of 15 users will be spending $120 per month to access Slack. As for the Plus model, we really only recommend it if you’re a medium-to-large sized business or outlet. Plus runs companies $12.50 per user per month annually, or $15 per user on a monthly schedule.
As we said, most users reading this article can probably stick to the free plan for their usage, especially college students or anyone else looking to use Slack for their personal or casual needs. Professional Slack users may want the added benefits that come from Slack’s Standard or Plus premium versions, but otherwise, stick to the free plan. It gets you the majority of what you’d want out of the app without pushing you to pay for features you wouldn’t use anyway.
Slack may have begun life as a tool used by game developers, but Discord relates to the gaming industry in a whole different light: by focusing on gamers themselves. Unlike Slack’s own focus on professionalism, Discord was born out of the necessity for a way to communicate with other players while playing online competitive or cooperative video games. Though the app has a full chat-based application, as well as clients for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS, the app is primarily known for its VoIP interface that allows for latency-free calls over a dedicated Discord server, making for a better gaming and recording experience than anything you’d see through Skype or Google Hangouts. Let’s take a look at what makes this app so interesting for gamers and non-gamers alike.
It may seem strange, but Slack isn’t the only messaging app on the market today to have been born from a failed online multiplayer game. Discord’s history begins with the release of OpenFeint back in 2009, a mobile social platform for gamers on both Android and iOS (then known as iPhone OS). Anyone who owned an iPhone, iPod touch, or Android device around that time period probably has some faint (sorry) memories of OpenFeint, especially if they played the massively-popular endless runner Jetpack Joyride, which has OpenFeint support built into the app natively. OpenFeint also had support from other popular mobile games at the time, including The Moron Test, Robot Unicorn Attack, and Fruit Ninja. Despite the prevalence of the platform from its launch through 2011, OpenFeint was not long for this world, shutting down permanently in 2012 after being purchased by a Japanese gaming company in 2011.
Jason Citron, one of the primary developers and founders of OpenFeint, used the money from the sale of OpenFeint to open Hammer and Chisel, a game development studio, in 2012, the same year OpenFeint closed down for good. Their first game was to be Fates Forever, marketed as the first MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena—think League of Legends or DOTA 2) for mobile devices. Though the game received generally positive reception upon its release on iPad in 2014, Fates Forever failed to generate any sort of popularity with the public, eventually leaving the app discontinued and unavailable to be downloaded from the App Store in 2015. While working on the app, Citron told VentureBeat in an interview in 2015 that his team has run into problems when trying to communicate while playing other online games, specifically pointing out problems with VoIP apps like Skype and Google Hangouts. Most VoIP apps are taxing on systems, and playing games on your mobile device or computer while simultaneously hosting a voice chat can cause significant slowdown and resource usage.
This led Citron and his team, following the failure of Fates Forever, to begin work on a new VoIP system built with gamers in mind that wouldn’t rely on older technologies or forcing users to share IP addresses. The software launched to the public in May of 2015, and though the app hasn’t quite reached as large an audience as Slack, for some users, it’s irreplaceable.
Unsurprisingly, Discord’s main audience is the gaming community, and more specifically any and all users looking for a lag-free experience while gaming online, either over console or PC. Applications like Skype have an unfortunate history of taxing systems and other devices, making it difficult to obtain a strong connection in game without experiencing lag or slowdowns that can cost a player a decisive victory in-game. Though other gaming-based VoIP solutions have existed before—most notably Teamspeak—these apps have often been complicated to setup, requiring the exchange of IP addresses instead of using a basic contact system similar to what we’ve seen from applications like Skype or Hangouts. These apps also didn’t offer dedicated mobile apps, limiting their usefulness to PC-only interfaces.
That doesn’t mean that Discord isn’t limiting itself to the gaming audience, but it does mean the game is very clearly positioned for gamers. Discord’s logo is designed to look like a game controller, and the front page of its website displays illustrations of gaming headsets and controllers. The app also makes note of some very gamer-specific things while installing, including an acknowledgement of memes while the app checks for updates when opening. Again, this isn’t to say you have to be a gamer to use Discord, but Discord certainly focuses itself on gaming and the gaming community, and you’ll feel more at home here as a gamer than a businessman or advertiser.
That said, what the application is built for doesn’t truly matter. What does matter is the ability for the application to deliver a positive messaging experience in its app, and luckily for Discord’s user base, it does so excellently. Unlike Slack, Discord focuses its energy primarily on its VoIP features, and they stand out among the crowd here. Testing calls between Discord, Skype, and Google Hangouts, there was a noticeable lag with both Hangouts and especially with Skype that, while not without a couple milliseconds of delay, Discord managed to primarily avoid. And while Hangouts is a web-based chat service, Discord did manage to tax our test computer’s resources far less than what we had seen from both Hangouts and Skype, with a lower CPU usage.
The basic interface of the app on desktop is fairly clean, with a dark purple theme displayed by default. Along the far left of the display is your server display, allowing you to switch or join a new server assuming you have the correct invite to join a group. Servers can be both public and private; if you want to start a server for you and your Destiny crew for setting up raids on the go, you can create a server privately. Likewise, public servers can be about any amount of topics, both related to gaming (RPGs, specific online games like PUB:G, etc.), similar to gaming (anime, comics, etc.), and unrelated to gaming entirely (political servers are popular, though not without their fair share of controversy in recent weeks). NSFW servers are marked as such, and specific searches can contain or disallow based on your own personal preferences for the application. Most servers available on the official Discord Server site have open invite policies that allow you to jump right into the community.
Inside a server, you’ll find a fairly complex, yet well-built interface for interacting with the chat group. The left panel of the page is filled with channels, similar to what we’ve seen previously from Slack. These channels are all contained within the single server, and are typically labeled with their own title. For example, in the “Looking for Gamers” server, there are several text channels: information, announcements, off-topic, gaming-discussion, and more. There are also several different voice channels dedicated to jumping in to speak, each with the capability of holding up to six people per channel. The chat interface, meanwhile, is relatively similar to any other online chat service, with a scrolling list of text-based messages and a list of current online users on the right side of the display. You can see when a new user has joined and when someone is typing a new message, and communicate as you wish. You can also mute specific channels if you wish to do so.
That said, you don’t need to use dedicated servers if you aren’t interested in them. Like any other chat software, Discord supports basic messaging and friends lists right inside the application, and next to the server list is where you’ll find your list of available friends. Adding a friend on Discord is a little bit harder than on Skype, where you can use email addresses and usernames to reach out to your friends and family on the platform. To help eliminate spam, you need both your friends’ usernames and a four digit Discord tag, available at the bottom of the Discord client. This allows you to send direct messages, though you’ll need to access a server in order to reach out to a group of friends all at once. You can check who is and isn’t online within the application by viewing the small icons in the DM portion of the page, and you can view friend suggestions from the homepage within the app.
As far as basic messaging goes, it works about as well as you could expect. Direct messages look near-identical to what you would find on an application like Skype, with a feed of newest to oldest messages appearing from bottom to top. You can pin specific messages and view them with a toggle, and add friends to a DM if you need to tag additional users within the app. A call icon is located at the top of the direct message, activating a VoIP call to reach out to your friend right from within the DM display. Also, Discord has slowly begun to roll out video calling to about 10 percent of their users as of writing. We haven’t been able to test the feature yet, but we assume it will add a new icon next to the already-existing call button.
Tools and Features
Discord’s features aren’t quite as standout as Slack’s, built more on the specs and development side of things than the visual and useful in your day to day usage of the app. But the features are nevertheless important, and they’re what make Discord one of our favorite apps to use for nearly lag-free VoIP calls. Without diving into too many technical aspects to begin with, Discord builds in features like tags and hashtags into their messaging system in order to make it feel and act more modern than something you’d see with Skype. As we mentioned, Discord has far less impact on your device’s CPU than other similar VoIP calling applications, and setting up the application on mobile, web, or desktop only takes a few seconds.
Here’s the technical aspects: Discord is built to support protection for both your IP address and against DDoS attacks, meaning you won’t run into any problems while trying to connect either to your friends online through direct messaging, or through one of the thousands of servers maintained by Discord. The app on desktop supports in-game interfaces, so you won’t have to Alt+Tab out of a game to adjust your call settings or view your messages. You can also set up custom hotkeys within Discord to automatically adjust and control the app within a game or other program. And though we haven’t had much of a place to put this, the quality of Discord’s voice calls is far superior than what we’ve seen with Skype. For our test calls comparing Skype with Discord, we tested a call between two different computers on two different internet connections. Both calls used the same default connections for both apps, along with the same microphones, but Discord not only sounded clearer than the Skype call, there was noticeably less lag between the two callers.
There are some smaller quality of life improvements as well, such as customizable volume controls for every user—a great idea for that one friend whose microphone is always louder than everyone else’s—and some solid file attachment offerings, including images, videos, and other content you might want to send to your gaming friends. Overall, the app isn’t quite as feature-packed as some of its competitors, but Discord clearly isn’t trying to be a jack of all trades. It’s trying to be a master of some.
Platforms and Pricing
As far as Discord’s platforms go, the application is available on pretty much any and every platform you could ask for. Windows and MacOS? Of course, so no matter what platform you game on, you’re good to go. Android and iOS for on the go chats and calls? It’s there too, allowing you to be pinged by your gaming community whenever they feel like it. Gaming on a home-built Linux machine? You’ll be able to communicate there as well, with a full platform built for Linux. And if you’re using Chrome OS and still want to stay connected to your Discord servers, the web client will handle the rest of your needs. Basically, if you want to access Discord, you can, and no platform seems to be better than the other. Even the web version of Discord seems to be near-identical to what we’ve seen from the desktop versions.
In terms of pricing, Discord likes to market itself as a 100 percent free communication app in its features list, and indeed, you can use the app fully-featured, for free, sans ads. Unlike Skype, which serves up banner advertisements inside the app, Discord’s interface features no intrusive or annoying advertisements built into the app. In fact, the app didn’t ask for a payment at all during general use or our testing period, and we never ran into any limitations with using the app for free either.
Discord does, however, have a payment plan: Discord Nitro. Nitro is a $4.99 monthly subscription that helps support Discord’s servers and development that grants you a few bonus features within Discord. What’s nice about Nitro is that, though the features are neat, it’s nothing you feel is necessary for the app. In many ways, Nitro is simply a perks package for those who feel Discord benefits them in one way or another, almost like a Patreon. Nitro grants you an animated avatar (compatible with any GIF of your choice), custom emoji support in all servers, a larger upload limit (at 50MB per file, up from the original 8MB file cap), and a badge on your profile that shows other users how long you’ve supported Discord through Nitro’s payment plan. The company also has an FAQ page where they mention having explored optional cosmetic options for sale, including sticker packs and skins for Discord, but as of now, Nitro is the only paid portion of Discord. Finally, that $4.99 fee is charged monthly, not annually, and you can cancel at anytime.
Which Should You Use?
This is a tough question, because in many ways, Slack and Discord fulfill two different niche audiences, albeit with some crossover. Slack mainly focuses on businesses and groups, making their priority the ability to communicate with large teams on both a general and individual level. Meanwhile, Discord focuses primarily on VoIP calls with low-latency and as small an impact as possible on general CPU usage as possible, allowing gamers to play online games with their friends while maintaining a clear and strong connection. These two do share some common ground, especially when you consider the power of Discord’s servers, which also feature channel support for communicating with different groups of users. So which should you pick between the two? It all comes down to three different categories: communication, access, and cost.
This is the big one, because while Slack and Discord both support text and VoIP communication (with Slack also having support for video calls, something that has yet to arrive to Discord in a full rollout, although should be coming soon enough), Slack focuses primarily on text and instant messaging in all of its forms, while Discord is primarily known for its VoIP service. The two also focus on two very different audiences, making it a bit like comparing apples to oranges, in some ways. But that doesn’t mean the two aren’t comparable at all, because they do offer plenty of similarities. Slack features the huge advantage of channels within each workspace that can be both public and private, making it easy to manage different groups of users on one service. Discord offers a similar feature through its server capability, with the option to set some channels to “Super Secret.” That said, Slack handedly beats Discord when it comes to private channels; it’s much easier to set up distinct channels on Slack, while Discord requires a server complete with multiple channels.
When it comes to basic direct messages, the two apps are both about as equally powerful. Both send push notifications, support tags for users and topics, and allow for multiple people to jump into conversations. Both also feature pretty great interfaces; we were overall drawn to the flatter, darker design of Discord, but that isn’t to say what we saw from Slack was a poor showing. Both made it easy to navigate the app and find information, although Slack’s search interface trumps what we’ve seen from Discord any day of the week. In fact, the ability to plug in applications to Slack also makes for a fairly powerful computer, makes Slack one of the best chat applications on the market today.
Discord and Slack are both available on almost every platform, and 95 percent of users are going to find either app easy to access on their computer or on the go. Discord is the most widely available, with dedicated apps for Windows and MacOS, mobile apps for Android and iOS, a Linux desktop client, and a web client. We really can’t think of many devices not covered under that umbrella; unless you were hoping for a dedicated Windows 10 Mobile application for the few remaining Windows 10 Mobile users, most consumers are going to have no problem accessing their Discord DMs and servers online.
Slack is almost as available, but just barely misses the mark Discord sets. You can access Slack on Windows and MacOS with dedicated desktop applications, on Android and iOS devices with mobile apps, and through the web client. Linux users aren’t completely out of luck, of course, as long as they’re running either a Ubuntu or Fedora-based distro and don’t mind relying on an in-beta product. Even so, the web client for Slack is always available as well, making it available on just about as many platforms as Discord. Oh, and a bonus: Slack still has a Windows Phone 8.1 app available for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile users. It probably won’t see any future updates, and the app’s still in beta, but it’s there.
To some, this might even overtake basic communication as the most important category. If you’re just looking for what’s cheaper, there’s no doubt about it: Discord is the app for you. To unlock Slack’s full potential, especially when dealing with a large team of communicators and members, you’re going to either be limited in your usage and app support, or you’re going to be paying hundreds of dollars per month for every user under you. Slack has a ton of great features, but plenty of them are kept behind a paywall, including their online storage plans, guest access, and group video calls. That said, most casual Slack users can probably stick to the freemium model, since most of the limitations don’t directly apply to the basic chat and channel concepts of the app. For those other users, if you’re using Slack for business, there’s a good chance you don’t need those features, and can continue using the basic plan. This makes Slack a great choice for college classes or clubs to communicate, keeping different channels for different use cases and groups.
That said, Discord more or less mops the floor with Slack in terms of pure price. Nearly everything in Discord is entirely free: server usage, server hosting, VoIP calls to other Discord users, and group VoIP calls are all free and easy to use, without an ad in sight. The paid plan for Discord, called Nitro, focuses primarily on providing cosmetic changes to your profile as a reward for financially backing the program, with the only non-cosmetic change being a difference in file upload size. There’s no doubt about it: Discord is the better app for those users on a budget, though Slack is certainly usable while on the free plan.
It’s not that Slack and Discord don’t have a lot in common. They do, arguably more than you’d expect when comparing a business-class email replacement and cloud-based communication suite with something designed by and for gamers to communicate quickly. But both platforms have messaging and VoIP capabilities. Both allow private and public servers or channels, making it easy to communicate with specific people at once. Both are backed by cloud services, allowing for file uploads to their servers to send to other users, and both have free and paid plans of different levels of features.
But honestly, for most users, we think the decision will be easy. Most normal consumers looking for a new chat application will want to check out Discord over Slack. The app is made for a more casual audience, and while that’s not to say the app isn’t professional in appearance, it’s focus on gaming and friends list makes it feel like a far more welcoming app than the business-first feel of Slack. If you’re looking for a replacement for Skype, it’s call quality and low-latency can’t be beat, and the app is easy to pick up and learn right away. Plus, nearly every feature is unlocked in the free tier, with only a smaller file upload cap being placed on those not paying for the $4.99 per month Nitro plan. If you’re interested in meeting new people, the server function works well, and setting up your own server only takes a few minutes of your time.
Conversely, businesses, startups, and young professionals will feel drawn to Slack, though it’s worth noting the app is only good if you have enough users to constitute a workspace on the app. Because Slack doesn’t quite work without logging into a preset open tab, you can’t quite get the same experience of jumping into the app and meeting new people. But for the aforementioned folks looking for a replacement suite for their productivity apps, you can’t beat what Slack offers. It’s a powerful application, especially for teams of coworkers, and though its voice call quality isn’t quite up to the high of Discord, businesses using the program will find the app connectivity and the ability to quickly search for users, messages, topics, and files incredibly powerful.
Overall, our recommendation for most users is to check out Discord. It’s an incredibly powerful VoIP and messaging app, and we think it’ll satisfy the needs of most users looking for a tool to communicate with, whether you’re gaming or otherwise. With its low price of entry, wide availability, and upcoming video chat implementation, Discord is one of the best messaging apps you can get today.
So, what app do you think you’re going to use? Have you tried Slack or Discord? Are you more of a gamer or a professional? Let us know in the comments below!