Off Brand

Slack’s Outage Was the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to the Company

When it comes to accidental branding moments, this one will go down in the books

Rob Walker
Published in
3 min readJan 5, 2021


Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

When Slack started 2021 by suffering a mass outage on the very morning most of the remote workforce revved up their computers after a long holiday break, it seemed like the ultimate business nightmare. Twitter went nuts. Virtual teams had barely reunited before being disconnected. The ultimate black eye for a company that had just been acquired for a whopping $27.7 billion, supposedly central to the work-from-home boom.

But actually, maybe Slack’s inept start to the year wasn’t all bad — for Slack, at least.

While the corporate masses dunked on the company in typical Slacklash parlance, the company’s momentary ineptitude made many of us realize that this profoundly ho-hum and fundamentally irritating component of the modern workday is, actually, kind of critical. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and everybody else covered the outage in real time bordering on national crisis, as if some core piece of digital infrastructure had failed. Online services go down all the time, but only the big ones — Twitter, Amazon, Google — attract such mainstream attention for the mere fact of being temporarily unavailable.

In a sense, the now-notorious Slack Stumble of ’21 put this remote-work stalwart in the big leagues.

Lasting just about half a workday — the very first workday of a new year — the outage was perfectly timed for a captive audience. For the first 90 minutes, remote workers could shrug it off and make jokes on Twitter. But gradually, it became clear that this was, in fact, really inconvenient, so…