Everyone knows that Slack is the current darling of the chat world. This is especially true in the high-tech scene as it seems like everyone is using Slack. It quickly eclipsed 6 year old HipChat with a huge suite of fancy new features and a shiny interface. The 14 teams I’m a member of can attest to Slack having also taken the place of IRC for many. So why isn’t this post an advertisement for Slack? Well everything isn’t all roses and sunshine in the land of Slack and there’s a new upstart worth checking out… Rocket.chat.
The biggest issue with Slack is that the free version is quite limited and it’s REALLY expensive. The limitation on number of integrations and only keeping 10k messages are real pain points, even for a small team. If you’re not a proper company (or fabulously wealthy), you can’t even begin to consider paying $8/mo/user for what is basically a hobby. That’s more than I pay for Google Apps. Even at that price you still don’t get some key features like SAML, which will cost you $15/user/mo — ouch. As a comparison HipChat Plus (their highest level) costs $2/user/month — much more reasonable.
But what if there was something out there just as awesome as Slack, and had even more features. The service would have a slick web interface, apps on all platforms (mobile and desktop), unlimited integrations, file sharing, search, every auth method known to man (including SAML) and your usual combo of options for messaging. That would certainly match slack, but what if you then added local hosting (for the security conscious), video conferencing, APIs, and a custom module system? That chat system would be, you guessed it, Rocket.chat. Oh, and I forgot to mention it’s free & open-source.
Grandstanding aside, it’s amazing how slick the application is (thanks in part to MeteorJS) and the project is only 4 months old! The feature set is really quite lengthy with even more cool additions waiting in the wings. Last night Gabriel Engel (one of the head guys on the project) gave a very interesting talk at the Meteor Devshop talk about Rocket.Chat and some of its history/features. Of course if you’re not sure about it, there is an online demo to take it for a spin. For an app that could be the “WordPress of Chat”, can you afford not to give it a try?