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Workplace collaboration platform Slack is holding a virtual version of its annual Frontiers conference this week and with it announced a bevy of new product features and tools within the Slack platform. Key updates include direct messaging on Slack Connect, verification checkmarks for organizations, as well as new capabilities for admins and developers. 

With Slack Connect DMs, employees can collaborate with trusted external partners on Slack. The process is straightforward: An invitation is sent to a collaborator, and once it’s accepted, the two users can begin messaging one another directly on Slack. Verified companies will be denoted with a checkmark to let employees know they’re connecting with a trusted organization.

To be clear, direct messaging is currently available on Slack, but it’s only for communication between employees within the same organization. Slack Connect is Slack’s answer for allowing collaboration between businesses. Similar to Slack’s Shared Channels feature, Connect is a secure environment that lets businesses bring up to 20 organizations into a shared space for real-time collaboration. It was launched earlier this year and around 52,000 of Slack’s paid customers are currently using the service.

For Slack administrators and developers, Slack is rolling out a tool called Workflow Builder Steps from Apps. 

It allows companies to build workflows that integrate software services and apps outside of Slack using a code-free visual tool. For example, a support agent can mark an inbound ticket with a pre-determined emoji, which could then trigger a workflow that automatically sends the details to an incident response app to create a new incident ticket.

Meanwhile, with another new feature called socket mode, internal developers can receive app payloads from behind an organization’s firewall through a WebSockets connection. This will allow companies to build interactive apps without exposing public HTTP endpoints, Slack said.

In addition to verified organizations, Slack is also launching a featured called managed connections, which will allow Slack admins to pre-approve channel requests with organizations that have been deemed safe. Slack is also enabling admins to deploy apps across some or all of an organization with new organization-wide app deployment. 

In terms of availability, Slack Connect DMs and managed connections are slated for early 2021. The new workflow builder tool is available now, while socket mode and org-wide deployment are set to arrive later this year.

Slack hasn’t issued an updated user count since last October, when it claimed to have 12 million daily active users. Instead, the company’s quarterly financial report continue to put the focus on paid and enterprise customers. Slack said in its Q2 filing that it ended the quarter with over 130,000 paid customers, up 30% year-over-year, with 985 of those paid customers bringing Slack annual recurring revenue greater than $100,000. The company added 8,000 new paid customers in the second quarter.

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