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Navigating the new era of workplace productivity

URLs have replaced files as the atomic unit of work. What replaces folders?
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Today, at long last, the OSlash enterprise URL manager is available for any team to use. With just a few clicks, you can transform the browser itself into an engine of productivity. 

OSlash enables companies to easily make, find, and share memorable Shortcuts to their most important work —no matter which apps it happens in. And you can use it starting today. 

We’ve written a little in the lead up to this launch about what OSlash actually does, and the problems it solves. But to really explain why we’re so excited about URL management— and why it matters now more than ever before—we need to rewind the clock to the early days of workplace software. 

That’s right: we’re headed to the 80s. 

1960s - 1980s: Desktop folders and paper

Personal computer as feudal estate.

When personal computing first hits the mainstream, every computer is an island to itself. Outside of large institutions, email is but a twinkle in someone’s eye. When you create a piece of work—say a document, or a spreadsheet—you file it away in a digital folder on your computer, just like you would with a piece of paper in a real filing cabinet. If you want to share your work with someone else, you print it, or you save it to something like a floppy disk.

In this world, organizing and finding your work is simple. Your folders are intuitive, because you made them yourself. If you can’t remember what you called a file, you only have one place to search. 

But what’s on your own computer is all you get to see — someone has to proactively decide to share their work with you, or you might never know it existed. You certainly can’t discover it on your own. 

1990s - 2000s: Shared network drives and the emergence of email 

Bye bye, paper. (Mostly) Hello document_finalfinal_reallyfinalthistime.doc

LANs and ethernet unlock more than just teenagers playing DOOM with their friends. During the 90s, a new folder shows up on the office desktop: the shared drive. You don’t need to track down a floppy drive or CD to get your hands on design-team approved PowerPoint templates. For the first time, you can start to catch a glimpse of other peoples’ work without having to ask anyone in advance.

At the same time, email finally starts to really catch on with businesses and consumers. That means you can send files electronically! Unfortunately, files are big, upload bandwidth is small, and there are attachment size limits. 

In the mid-2000s companies like Box and Dropbox (not to mention Apple and Google) tackle that pesky file size problem and start bringing the shared network drive into the cloud. This is when files themselves first start to become links. 

So now you have three places to look for your work: your work computer, your email inbox, and your cloud storage. (Maybe four if you’re an early adopter of Google Docs.) Not so bad, but the real problem is knowing if you’ve got the right version of a file. Is it the one in your email or the one on the shared drive? (Or the one that somebody forgot to upload anywhere at all?)

2010s to today: Real-time collaboration, decentralized work ecosystems, and the death of the file 

The cloud killed the file! But... how the heck do I find anything now?

Oops, everything is an app now. On the plus side: if you have the right link, you have the right version. On the negative: there are a lot of productivity apps for work. If you work at an average small company, your workplace might have 73 apps— and if you’re at a larger company, you could have 175 or more.

With rapid improvements in browser technology, we’ve gotten two big improvements to workplace collaboration in this era so far: continuous background saving, and real-time multiplayer editing. In this context, versioning becomes an ongoing process of evolution, not a technological necessity. 

The “file” - static, portable, tightly defined —  is no longer the atomic unit of work. It’s been replaced by a rented location in one of innumerable walled gardens we call apps scattered across the internet. A destination. 

In other words, the apps do not make files. The apps make links. Thousands and thousands and thousands of links.

Small problem: there’s no inherent cross-platform directory structure in an emergent, networked app ecosystem. Every app has its own search and organizational system. The scope of work you could find is so vast, that even “universal” search is insufficient if you don’t know precisely what to search for. 

It’s enough to make you long for the simple days when there was just one start menu, with one set of folders you defined for yourself. At least you could find things.

Introducing OSlash

The real-time collaborative era of workplace productivity has introduced new challenges that require new solutions for navigation, search, and discovery. With teams facing app overwhelm and increasing coherence penalties as they become more remote and decentralized, the ability to define your own knowledge graph layer, across apps, has never been more vital. 

This layer belongs where the work happens — in your browser. It needs to be multiplayer, just like the work it helps you navigate. And that’s where OSlash fits in.  

We make Shortcuts for humans (because let’s face it, URLs are for browsers) so you—and all your teammates—can find and collaborate on your work, fast, no matter where it lives.

We think your work should be at your fingertips whenever you need it. Writing an email and need to reference the latest roadmap? Our handy browser plugin is right there, ready to autocomplete the correct Shortcut. 

Want to share the standup Zoom with your new colleague in Slack? Our integration is just a /o away.

You have an unprecedented number of tools available at work today. If you can imagine a SaaS app, someone probably just raised a super seed round for it. 

Don’t dive into the ocean of apps without an atlas.

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