How Slack’s search finally got good

Five years ago, Slack was an unknown business collaboration upstart available only in a private beta test. Already, though, cofounder/CEO Stewart Butterfield was pitching the messaging service as a powerful collective memory for the businesses that would adopt it. He waxed eloquent about “the entire corpus of organizational knowledge” contained in conversations among coworkers and declared Slack to be “built around search.”

Fast forward to today. Slack has 8 million daily active users, making it one of the fastest-growing workplace tools of all time. Over its half-decade of ever-expanding influence, it’s indexed more than 100 billion messages and other interactions, and is adding billions more each month. For many organizations, the information that employees have been sharing in Slack is indeed chock-full of nuggets with lasting value.

All of which makes it particularly odd that its search features have felt so stunted for so long.

It’s true that anyone with the patience to study up on syntax and filters could construct a query to retrieve anything stored in the service. But if you just typed in keywords—like the name of a colleague and a term or two relating to a discussion you had with her a few weeks earlier—the information you sought might or might not rise to the top of the search results you got.
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