How Few Articles Covered the Monopolistic Aspects of the Salesforce Acquisition of Slack

Executive Summary

  • Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack was greeted with a series of copycat articles that provided the same information but did not bring up the acquisition’s monopolistic aspects.
  • We cover one article that did.


Recently reading about the Salesforce/Slack acquisition, I found what seemed to be the same articles — mostly about stock prices, the total value of the acquisition, etc..

However, I found very little that discussed if the acquisition technically fit with Salesforce. In fact, I found nothing that explained the technical fit between Salesforce and Slack.

The only explanation I could find is that Salesforce could use the huge Slack customer base to force its application. This is really the primary motivation for acquisitions — which is an approach to “buying customers.”

The Technical Side of the Acquisition

Will Slack really ever be relevant to the technology of Salesforce?

I don’t know, and I did not see anything performing the analysis or explaining the pro or con. Certainly, Slack is a type of notification system, so there could be a scenario where a sales manager is directed to review new forecasts entered into CRM. Still, I would have liked it if a person who uses Salesforce and Slack constantly performed this analysis and made the case. And I did not find that type of article.

The Lacking of Monopolistic Aspect Coverage

A second area where the coverage fell was covering the monopolistic or anti-competitive aspects of the acquisition.

I also found nothing on whether the merger should be allowed or what happens when software companies use mergers to create monopolies. Again, that would require thinking and would challenge the status quo. Journalists generally now support the creation of monopolies. If ABC company buys XYZ company, journalists seem to cheer the acquisition universally. Again, they reflect the interests of corporations, not what is good for the overall society, market, etc. The society or market does not take out advertisements or pay their salary, so forget the common good. Let’s get to influence readers to think that the more concentration of power that happens, the better are outcomes.

However, I finally did find an article that addressed the questions I had, and this was Matt Stoller’s coverage of the acquisition.

And in the following quote, he addressed the problems Stack would face moving from being an independent platform to being captured by Salesforce.

The usability of the product, and Slack’s integration with an increasing number of software packages, made the communications network central to how employees worked together. If Slack had continued being able to operate independently in an open market (emphasis added), it probably would have produced follow-on products to challenge existing enterprise vendors.

Of course, as Salesforce’s roll-up illustrated, the business tool software market is anything but open. And Slack ran head-on into a monopolist, but in this case, the monopolist wasn’t Salesforce.

Slack was going after the way that corporations communicate internally that hard largely been handled by email systems and business productivity software. Microsoft is the dominant player in this space, with its Office productivity line of business generating $35 billion a year. If Slack had been able to grow, it could eventually introduce tools to compete with Microsoft’s offerings. Microsoft soon recognized the threat, and in 2016, it cloned Slack, (emphasis added) and began offering its version of Slack’s chat product, dubbed Teams, as part of Office 365.

Teams as a Replacement for Slack?

I have used Teams, but only because it is included as part of the Office365 suite that I log into for a customer I have been supporting. And as I don’t use Slack except to receive messengers from forms on the Brightwork Research & Analysis website. That is, I use it as a notification engine. Therefore, I did not realize Team was a copy of Slack, although I barely use Teams as there is not much advantage to using it, and it is generally unappealing to use. Slack has several innovative aspects that are not at all apparent from using Teams.

Stoller explains in the following quotation how Microsoft could checkmate Slack through its traditional approach of bundling an inferior product. a new company, Slack had no sales channel to big businesses, and it grew through word of mouth. So Microsoft did what it always does to kill a nascent competitor; it gave away its new product for no or low cost to existing clients, and bundled it with existing product lines. In a society with functional antitrust laws, such activity would be illegal.

In response to Microsoft’s onslaught, Slack didn’t stand still. In July, it filed a complaint with the EU Competition authority, accusing Microsoft of using its dominant hold on business software tools to exclude Slack’s products. “Slack threatens Microsoft’s hold on business email, the cornerstone of Office, which means Slack threatens Microsoft’s lock on enterprise software,” Jonathan Prince, vice president of communications and policy at Slack, said in a statement. This comment is an echo of the monopoly maintenance claims used against the corporation in the 1998 antitrust case that nearly broke it up.

But there was no action forthcoming.

Two months later, Slack warned investors that Microsoft might strike back, writing as an investment risk that “it could be subject to retaliatory or other adverse measures by Microsoft, its employees, or agents in response to the complaint that we filed with the European Commission.” And then finally, this week, Slack threw in the towel, selling itself to Salesforce and ceasing to exist as an independent concern.

As Casey Newton put it at Verge, “the medium-term future of work is increasingly a choice between three giants: Microsoft, Salesforce, and (in a distant third) Google.

This means that Slack allowed itself to be purchased by Salesforce, at least partly because it could not get regulatory protection against Microsoft. 

And Stoller brings up the issue that the acquisition will create.

Of course the deal should be blocked, because the goal is to build out a vertically integrated enterprise sales and software toolset and exclude others from that market. That’s what Salesforce is, a mess of product lines glued together with press releases, market power and political connections.

This is exactly my appraisal of Salesforce. Its “leading” CRM system is a joke, has many technical problems, and is popular because it became the standard in the CRM space, not because it is actually any good.


I scoured the Internet for an article that would cover the merger’s monopolistic aspects, and this is the first article that did so. I want to congratulate Matt for an excellent article that got to the heart of the matter. I was entirely unaware of what MSFT did to Slack with Teams. I use Teams because I have to, but it has a shallow functionality level compared to Slack, so I consider it a similar product in name only. However, no doubt MSFT salespeople have pitched it as representative to clueless corporate buyers.

This article by Matt Stoller receives our score of a 10 out of 10 for accuracy.