When Slack exploded in 2014, most of its soon-to-be customers were still using email and post-its for internal communication. (And supposedly pagers, fax-modems and telegrams). HipChat was dominating the business chat market and ChatOps was a foreign and experimental concept – even though HipChat was already doing it.
Today, Slack is becoming synonymous with team communication and their catchphrase: Be productive instead of busy. Its user base is growing at an insane pace, its twitter mentions look like the work of a religious cult. Users are ditching other chat apps for Slack and dedicating whole websites to proving its superiority.
To run yet another comparison of how our team liked HipChat more than Slack > Slack more than HipChat would be redundant. You can just google that and the first page of results will tell you all you need to know to pick Slack and never look back, like we did. Instead of that, I decided to dig through the Internet to see who is still using HipChat and why. Because they’re the underdog and everybody loves an underdog, right?
Besides, as you’ll see, some of the “differences” you’ll find in the other comparisons, are actually features found in both apps, but HipChat hides them better.
Team chat is not just chat anymore. Most teams that we’re aware of rely on multiple apps to coordinate their daily work. With integrations and bots you can monitor server activity, support tickets, social media, code deployment and other updates all from inside a chat room, without spending quarter of your day flipping between windows and login screens.
Available integrations and developers API should be the first feature you check before choosing your group chat app. Find out how many of your currently used apps integrate with HipChat or Slack and take that as a big factor in making your decision.
Why people are choosing Slack
Every team is different. What is a deal breaker for some doesn’t even register for others. If all you need is a set of chat rooms for the whole company, with an option of adding your clients as guests, it won’t matter whether you use HipChat or Slack. At their core, they are very similar and you’ll probably pick the one that is cheaper or looks nicer to you.
But for more advanced users, those for whom group chat is the center of team collaboration, the differences in performance, integrations, bots and notifications are huge. The four biggest reasons given by people who moved from HipChat to Slack are:
Either HipChat doesn’t integrate with an app they need, or the integration lacks a functionality that it has in Slack. But this is highly subjective because HipChat also has integrations that Slack doesn’t.
I should also remind you that API is a thing and if you can’t find an out-of-the-box integration, you can usually build one.
Some people have noted that HipChat tends to lag or notifications are inconsistent between mobile and web app. Personally, we haven’t noticed that, but others have.
Slack is just cooler. From its sassy bots to embeddable everything to charismatic copywriting, adorable support staff and a huge, loyal community – Slack is an all-around cool brand that you come to love. HipChat is just a brand that feels pretty corporate.
When you look at Slack’s history, their constant updates and responsiveness to feature requests, you see a huge potential for development in the near future.
4# Little things
Some people like Slack’s colorful and customizable interface, others prefer the more buttoned-up, organized HipChat. For some people having to manually join or invite other HipChat users to chat rooms is a nuisance. Some people want to edit and delete messages at will, like in Slack, instead of having to dig through settings and chat history. Both apps have a stable of chat bots to choose from, but interacting with those bots feels different in Slack and HipChat.
But once you dig under the hood, you’ll find that what Slack users portray as a gaping chasm between available features, is actually cosmetic differences that can be patched up.
What HipChat has and Slack doesn’t
#1 HipChat Connect
HipChat connect is two things: a developer platform that makes building integrations relatively easy, and a port that embeds external apps inside the HipChat window.
Depending on your attention span, this is a blessing or a curse. It saves you a lot of annoying switching between tabs, but it can get distracting. The upside is definitely speed. Sure, you can display two browser windows side-by side and monitor what you need separately, but HipChat Connect saves you time spent on copying text and links. You can just reference items from the sidebar right in the chat window.
2# HipChat Server
Cloud hosting and SaaS are definitely two of the biggest internet revolutions of the last decade. But when you’re American Express or NASA, you don’t want your internal data to be stored in an unspecified place on the planet, where it can be vulnerable to hacking attacks like the one that both HipChat and Slack suffered recently.
HipChat has a self-hosted solution, used by both AE and NASA. Something they can put behind whatever sophisticated security system they use. Presumably dogs and mechanical locks that can only be activated by two high-ranking officers from opposite ends of a room. I’m guessing.
Look, nobody likes to be spied on. We want the freedom to use our employer’s resources to gossip and complain about our employer, without suffering the consequences when that gossip gets to the management via their admin access to private chat logs.
But your employer probably already can read your work email anyway, knows how much time you’re spending on Facebook and controls your work phone billing. If you want to talk about things that shouldn’t get to your boss, there are Google Hangouts, Facebook and a ton of other private tools.
Of course, it’s up to you whether you want to know everything or as little as possible about your employees. For more input, please consult your lawyer.
#4 Video calls and screen sharing
Famously, HipChat’s paid plan ($2 per user/month) has a built-in 1-on-1 video call and screen sharing feature. Technically, though, you can get those through Skype for free. Also, many users report that HipChat’s video features tend to be slow. So it is a cool feature, but not one that should be a deciding factor when choosing your team chat application. Unless you insist on keeping 100% of your communication in one place.
Pricing and trial
Both chat apps have a free tier, with limited functionality.
You’ll notice that the most expensive HipChat option is 4 times cheaper than Slack:
There are very thorough comparisons just a Google search away, but they’re all subjective. Underneath all the spectacular hype and brand loyalty, HipChat and Slack are very similar.
We switched from HipChat to Slack. Most of the companies who reviewed both apps did the same. But then there’s Uber which recently ditched Slack for HipChat. And there’s NASA and Code.org which are faithful to their HipChat. Your mileage will vary.
That’s why we’re not focusing on our own experience in this post, but pointing out the features that make significant difference.
That’s why our only advice is: try them both. If you find no problems with app reliability, the rest is up to your individual needs. The integrations you need and the interface style you prefer.
Piotr Imbierowicz, CEO at TheMasters.io:
“For me Slack and Hipchat are similiar, but in my opinion some of the features work better on Slack. Slack is a young app, but Slack team is working hard to make it better – 2-3 times in a month I can see “what’s new” post on their blog. It’s also easier to start using Slack in the company because it’s just easy to use it. After one week with Hipchat, you can chat, create channels and add attachments. In the same time with Slack you do all of this and create reminders, use giphy, snippets etc.
Unfortunately Slack is a little bit expensive – 7$ for user in the lowest plan. It’s hard to move to Slack for the big company. In this case it’s cheaper to use Hipchat, because in free plan you are getting unlimited users and only 2$ for user in max plan.
Overall we decided to use Slack. It’s expensive but powerful and it’s making communication in the company much easier.”