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8 Free Slack Alternatives (Hosted, Self-Hosted, and Open Source )

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Slack Alternatives


In today’s fast-paced business environment, effective team communication tools are indispensable. They streamline workflows, enhance collaboration, and foster a culture of transparency across organizations. Slack has emerged as a leading platform in this domain, celebrated for its intuitive interface and robust integration capabilities. However, despite its popularity, Slack might not meet the specific needs of all teams or budgets. Whether hosted, self-hosted, or open-source, numerous alternatives provide varied advantages that could better align with diverse organizational needs. In this article, we explore eight such alternatives, each offering unique attributes that challenge the status quo set by Slack.

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Exploring the Need for Alternatives to Slack

Businesses and teams often seek alternative communication platforms due to various reasons that stem from the inherent limitations of popular tools like Slack and the unique needs of different organizational structures. First, Slack’s pricing structure can be prohibitive for small businesses or startups operating on tight budgets. Additionally, while Slack offers extensive integration capabilities, some teams may require more specialized features or deeper customization options that Slack does not provide. Privacy and data security are also critical concerns; companies that handle sensitive information might prefer platforms offering enhanced security measures or on-premise deployment options to better control their data. Furthermore, some teams find Slack’s user interface to be overwhelming, especially as the number of channels and messages grows, leading to a preference for simpler, more streamlined tools.

Top Alternatives

Hosted Slack Alternatives

Hosted communication platforms provide a hassle-free maintenance experience while offering robust features that enhance team collaboration. Among the Slack alternatives, three major players—Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, and Discord—stand out due to their unique offerings and integration capabilities. These tools cater to different organizational needs, from large enterprises to community-driven groups, expanding their usability beyond just business communication.

1. Microsoft Teams

Features and Benefits

Microsoft Teams is a powerful hosted alternative to Slack, especially well-suited for larger organizations. Its integration with Microsoft 365 brings a seamless connection to familiar productivity tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, which are embedded directly into the Teams environment. This integration facilitates an all-in-one workspace where documents can be created and shared without leaving the platform. Moreover, Teams supports direct video calling and meeting functionalities, which include features like background blur, meeting recording, and live captions.

Suitability for Large Organizations

The real strength of Teams lies in its scalability and security, aspects that are crucial for large enterprises. It provides advanced security controls, compliance capabilities, and administration tools that ensure data protection while managing a vast user base. Teams also offer extensive customization options through their apps and bots, which can enhance workflow and productivity, adapting to the specific needs of different departments within a large organization.

2. Google Chat

Google Chat
Integration with Google Workspace

Google Chat, another robust Slack alternative, is designed to enhance collaboration within teams that rely heavily on Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). Chat seamlessly integrates with apps such as Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, and Meet, making it an excellent choice for teams that are already embedded in Google’s ecosystem. This deep integration allows users to manage documents, emails, and schedules from a single platform, streamlining operations and reducing the need to switch between different apps.

Advantages for Collaboration

The advantage of using Google Chat is its simplicity and the ability to leverage Google’s AI to enhance workflow. For instance, Google’s powerful search functionality is built into Chat, allowing users to quickly find past conversations and files shared. Moreover, Chat’s tight integration with Google Meet simplifies scheduling and joining video conferences directly from the conversation window, enhancing real-time collaboration.

3. Discord

Popular Among Communities and Gaming

Initially popular in the gaming community, Discord has broadened its appeal and is now a viable hosted communication tool for businesses. What sets Discord apart is its focus on creating a community atmosphere, making it an excellent tool for businesses that want to build a strong team culture. Discord offers features like voice channels, which allow users to join audio conversations without the need for a traditional phone call or video chat setup. This can be particularly useful for quick check-ins or informal discussions.

Expanding to Businesses

Additionally, Discord provides robust notification controls, allowing users to fine-tune what updates they receive, and from whom, which helps in managing the flow of information. Its support for rich media sharing, including videos, images, and links, makes it an engaging platform for creative teams that need to share and discuss visual content frequently.

Self-Hosted Slack Alternatives

For organizations prioritizing data control and extensive customization, self-hosted Slack alternatives present an appealing option. Platforms like Mattermost and Rocket.Chat offers robust solutions that allow companies to manage their communication tools on their own servers, providing higher levels of privacy and adaptability. Here, we delve into each of these alternatives, exploring their key features and the specific benefits they bring to the table.

1. Mattermost

Overview of Features

Mattermost stands out as a premier self-hosted communication platform designed for high-trust environments. It offers a rich set of features similar to Slack, including group chat, direct messaging, file sharing, and searchable message history, but with the added benefit of running on private servers. One of Mattermost’s key strengths is its compatibility with multiple operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android, ensuring a seamless user experience across all devices.

Focus on Privacy and Customization

The platform’s commitment to privacy is evident in its strict adherence to data protection regulations, making it ideal for organizations concerned with data sovereignty. Mattermost allows teams to implement their own data retention policies, custom authentication methods, and encryption standards. Moreover, its extensive plugin system and API access enable deep customization and integration with existing tools and workflows. This flexibility makes Mattermost particularly suitable for organizations with specific operational requirements or those in regulated industries.

2. Rocket.Chat

Rocket Chat
Full Control over Data

Rocket.Chat is another powerful self-hosted alternative that provides complete control over data and communications. By hosting Rocket.Chat on their servers, organizations can ensure that all communications remain private and are not stored on third-party servers. This control extends to compliance with data protection laws, which is crucial for companies handling sensitive information.

Customization Benefits

Rocket.Chat’s open-source nature allows for extensive customization and integration capabilities. Organizations can modify the source code to add new functionalities, tweak the user interface, or integrate with other internal systems, such as CRM and ERP solutions. The platform supports real-time translation of messages in over 50 languages, making it an excellent choice for multinational companies looking to maintain a unified communication platform across diverse geographic locations.

Open Source Slack Alternatives

Open-source Slack alternatives offer transparency, flexibility, and community-supported development, which are highly valued by organizations looking for customizable and secure communication tools. Zulip and Element are two prominent platforms in this space, each bringing unique features and advantages, especially appealing to teams prioritizing innovation and security in their communication tools.

1. Zulip

Unique Threaded Conversation Feature

Zulip sets itself apart with its unique threaded conversation model, which is designed to keep conversations organized and easy to follow. Unlike traditional chat apps where messages are displayed in a single, continuous stream, Zulip allows users to discuss different topics within the same chat channel simultaneously without getting mixed up. This is particularly beneficial for large teams or projects where multiple discussions occur concurrently, as it prevents topics from being drowned out and helps maintain clarity.

Advantages of Threaded Conversations

The threaded model enhances productivity by allowing team members to jump in and out of different threads based on relevance to their work or expertise. This feature makes it easier to manage conversations and ensures that important information is not lost in the clutter of group chats. Additionally, Zulip’s powerful search functionality allows users to efficiently find specific threads or messages, saving time and improving workflow efficiency.

2. Element

Powered by the Matrix Open-Source Project

Element is built on the Matrix protocol, a powerful open-source project that facilitates secure, decentralized communication. The Matrix framework allows Element to offer end-to-end encryption for all messages, enhancing the security of communications. This makes Element an excellent choice for organizations that require stringent security measures, such as those in the governmental, health, and finance sectors.

Emphasizing Security and Federated Networking

One of the standout features of Element is its emphasis on federated networking. This means that different organizations can communicate across multiple servers and platforms without compromising the security or privacy of their data. Element allows users to host their own servers, giving them full control over their data while still being able to connect with other servers worldwide. This federated approach not only bolsters security but also ensures greater uptime and resilience by distributing the network load.

Comparing Top Slack Alternatives

When selecting a communication tool, it’s crucial to compare key aspects like usability, features, and cost-effectiveness. Let’s delve into how Slack alternatives such as Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, Discord, Mattermost, Rocket.Chat, Zulip, and Element stand out not only from Slack but also from each other.


  • Microsoft Teams and Google Chat excel in environments already integrated with their respective ecosystems (Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace), offering seamless usability for users familiar with these platforms.
  • Discord is known for its intuitive, community-friendly interface that appeals to both gaming groups and informal business settings.
  • Mattermost and Rocket.Chat offers customizable interfaces, which can be tailored to specific organizational needs, though this might require more technical expertise to set up compared to more straightforward platforms like Slack.
  • Zulip’s unique threaded conversations help in managing multiple discussion topics efficiently, a feature that can be particularly useful for large teams.
  • Element offers robust security features but may present a steeper learning curve due to its decentralized nature.


  • Microsoft Teams is feature-rich, particularly strong in video conferencing capabilities.
  • Google Chat integrates deeply with Google services, enhancing document collaboration and management.
  • Discord stands out with its voice channels and vibrant community engagement tools.
  • Mattermost and Rocket.Chat shines in environments where full data control and extensive customization are required.
  • Zulip and Element both offer unique features: threaded messaging in Zulip and secure, federated networking in Element.


  • Microsoft Teams and Google Chat can be cost-effective for organizations already paying for the broader suite of tools from Microsoft or Google.
  • Discord offers a free basic service with optional paid upgrades, which is economical for smaller teams or community-driven uses.
  • Mattermost and Rocket.Chat, while potentially requiring initial setup costs, eliminates the ongoing costs associated with hosted solutions.
  • Zulip and Element, being open-source, can offer significant savings over proprietary software, though may require investment in technical support and infrastructure.

How to Choose the Right Alternative for Your Team

Choosing the right communication tool for your team involves several crucial considerations. Firstly, identify the specific needs of your team. Do you require a tool with superior file sharing, extensive integration capabilities, or perhaps paramount security?

Evaluate the scale and culture of your organization

Large enterprises might benefit from robust platforms like Microsoft Teams or Google Chat, which offer extensive administrative controls and integration with enterprise-level software suites. Conversely, smaller teams or those in dynamic environments may prefer the flexibility and informality of platforms like Discord.

Consider your budget

Determine what you can realistically afford. While some tools are free, others require a subscription that may or may not justify their additional features.

Usability test

It’s beneficial to trial a platform to see if it fits well with your team’s workflow. The tool should be user-friendly and require minimal learning time to ensure smooth adoption.


In this exploration of various communication platforms, we’ve highlighted options ranging from hosted solutions like Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, and Discord, to self-hosted and open-source options like Mattermost, and Rocket.Chat, Zulip, and Element. Each offers distinct features and benefits suited to different organizational needs. I encourage you to delve deeper into these alternatives, assessing which one aligns best with your team’s specific requirements and goals. Embrace the opportunity to enhance your team’s communication and collaboration efficiently and effectively.

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