Aragon Leads Blockchain Startups That Are Cutting Slack

On September 22, 2017, several blockchain-based organizations that together boast a market cap of $1 billion, including Aragon, Indorse, Cofound.it, OmiseGO, Streamr, Santiment, FOAM, Auctus, Golem, and Decentraland, announced a unified departure from the messaging platform Slack, due to a melee of phishing scams that have recently been plaguing the development communities.

The departing group says the migration is the result of a fundamental incompatibility with public forum development in the Slack environment, which isn’t exactly a surprise; Slack is primarily a tool for business environments facilitating inter-office communication. Spearheading the mass egress from Slack is Aragon. "We started the proposal for the migration to an open source messaging platform after realizing that the current situation was unsustainable. Slack was designed for the internal use of projects; Slack lacks the tools necessary to run public-facing communities, including the fundamental features required for projects in the blockchain space. Migration to an open source platform will help us manage and govern our communities more efficiently and securely,” said Luis Cuende, co-founder and project lead, Aragon. “The situation has worsened considerably with recent Slack updates that remove unique usernames, allowing scammers to easily pose as project members and leaving users with no way of distinguishing fake accounts.” The projects that will follow Aragon's lead represent communities encompassing at least 45,000 users.

Regarding the exodus, a Slack spokesperson told ETHNews:

"We are aware that some workspaces operating as open community teams related to cryptocurrency have been targeted with deceptive spam messages. Several of the affected teams have since disabled or deleted access to the offending user accounts. Online scams targeting open communities can be pervasive and we encourage team admins and members to be vigilant, and to review and enforce basic security measures.”

The culprits of the phishing scams often target individuals with direct messages and may claim to be members of various crypto-development teams offering discounted rates on token offerings, while providing a deceptive wallet address to which assets can be sent. In other prevalent cases, scammers have been known to falsely advertise a MyEtherWallet site address; users follow instructions, log in, and provide their private keys and wallet addresses, allowing their cryptocurrencies to be stolen by the scammers. According to the announcement, $225 million worth of Ether has been associated with Slack phishing scams.

On the scamming, Decentraland project lead Ari Meilich said, "Phishing attacks are becoming increasingly pervasive in Slack. It is time for open source projects to migrate towards open source messaging platforms to ensure long-term control over our security."

Jan Isakovic, CEO at Cofound.it, also weighed in on the needs of communities. He said:

"Crypto communities are very specific. The level of control over the messaging, spam and scams is crucial. Existing tools just do not fit our specific use case. That’s why the project started by Aragon has full support by Cofound.it. We believe that it will be a foundation for a safe and controlled communications channel for all the crypto communities."

The team at Aragon has endorsed Rocket.Chat as a suitable platform to host a public facing community, and Vansa Chatikavanij, managing director at OmiseGO, spoke in favor of the move. He said, "Today we are pleased to announce support for the greater crypto community’s migration to a free software communications platform, Rocket.Chat. The Rocket.Chat team has agreed to work with all of us to make the most robust platform possible for our public community’s needs."

Chatikavanij added:

"We want to be clear that Rocket.Chat is one of many excellent emerging choices for this migration. We look forward to continuing our support for platforms such as Riot.im in the future, which may play an important role in our community as its development continues. Liberally licensed, audit-friendly software is an important key to a free and safe society, and the developers of such software deserve all our support for their often unappreciated work."

Some projects like Golem already use Rocket.Chat for internal communication. Golem CCO Marek Osiecimski said, "Now, it's a good time to also use it externally for the good of the large community of over 10,000 Golem supporters."

Rocket.Chat seems ready to receive the incoming development teams and the communities that are sure to follow. CEO of Rocket.Chat Gabriel Engel said the company is delighted to welcome Ethereum-based projects to the chat. "Selecting our leading open source collaboration platform will enable projects to take back full control on all aspects of security and data privacy, and reliably implement the pro-active protection measures that are essential to daily operation," said Engel. "Over the next few months, we look forward to working with all projects on improving and adapting Rocket.Chat’s feature set for the benefit of all cryptocurrency communities."

While Aragon and the others have decided that Slack isn’t the best option for the public-facing messaging service that their communities depend on, Slack will hardly be rendered useless by the departure. Many private organizations that are unrelated to cryptocurrency-based crowdfunding operations see fit to operate on Slack. The enterprise messaging company recently raised $250 million at a $5 billion valuation from investors that include SoftBank Group Corp, according to a Bloomberg report.