why zulip cartoon by Jessica Evans

Explanation of Zulip by Julia Evans

Zulip is not just a “better Slack”, in the same way that iPods were not just “better CD players”. Zulip’s topic-based threading changes what is possible in chat. If you haven’t seen Zulip in action, log on to our developers’ server at chat.zulip.org, or check out our short screencast (coming soon) on topics and threading.

Zulip vs. Slack

Zulip’s threading model allows for long-running conversations to co-exist with real time chat. This allows senior staff, remote team members, part-time contractors, internal clients, and others who aren’t going to be on your chat full-time to participate effectively.

In Slack (or Hipchat, Mattermost, or many others), if Bob starts a conversation in a busy channel at 10am, and Ada swings by sometime in the evening, there is no way for Ada to effectively participate in that conversation. If Ada is a manager who spends most of her days in meetings, or is a remote engineer living 8 time zones away, she won’t be able to participate in most conversations at all.

This means that in an organization that has adopted Slack, the vast majority of Ada’s conversations will still be over email, during meetings, or over Slack direct messages.

By contrast, Zulip’s lightweight threading model allows busy team members and remote workers to fully participate, even if they are reading messages hours after they are sent (or the next day!).

This enables conversation that would otherwise happen over meetings or email to happen in Zulip itself. It also enables easy participation and information spread to those that have the least time to attend meetings which have only a nugget of information that is relevant to them.

Zulip vs. Email

Email is clunky for real-time communication. A thread with even 50 messages feels cluttered and slow, whereas real-time chat conversations (on any platform) regularly exceed that. Typing notifications, emoji reactions, keyboard shortcuts, and blazingly fast clients make Zulip a daily pleasure.

Usability matters; in an organization that relies on email for communication, things that could have been resolved over chat end up being pushed to meetings instead.

Zulip changes the way you operate

The Zulip project has over 30 core team members, working from over 10 different time zones and 25 different locations. Outside of one-on-one conversations, Zulip doesn’t have a single phone or video-based meeting. Zulip also has zero internal mailing lists, and zero internal email discussions. By contrast, even Slack doesn’t rely on Slack for remote work; their careers page doesn’t list a single position where you could work from anywhere.

Threaded conversations mean that all stakeholders can see and respond to every message, just like in meetings and email.

But unlike meetings, Zulip conversations don’t require coordinating busy schedules, or hour long commitments from folks that just need a 5 minute update. And unlike email, a lively discussion of 300 Zulip messages is just as easy to digest and respond to as an in-person conversation.