Feb 5, 2015 · 1 minute

There was a time when people were excited to use their computers at their couches instead of their desks. Now, as Slack founder Stewart Butterfield talked about at tonight's PandoMonthly in San Francisco, using a laptop at all seems quaint.

Butterfield identified this shift as one of the biggest reasons why tech companies are getting larger, venture capitalists are writing bigger checks, and new products are affecting more people around the world than at any other point in history.

He would know. Besides founding Slack, the workplace messaging company that recently received a $1 billion valuation, he also co-founded Flickr, which pioneered online photo storage and was acquired by Yahoo in 2005.

The relationship between consumers and technology has shifted radically in the intervening years. Slack is perhaps the perfect example: it's a business tool that emulates one of the core behaviors of the Web -- chat -- and people love it.

It would have been strange for people to get excited about something like Slack a few years ago. Now, with a smartphone in every pocket and a tablet on every coffee table, there's software made specifically for children (thank God) and people live in apps during every waking moment.

That all seems obvious now. Of course people would want to have computers in their pockets. Of course apps would come to dominate most of our time. And of course so many founders, investors, and companies would exploit those trends.

But it's always worth remembering this wasn't always the case -- and changes like this can make a workplace chat service a bigger success than an image-sharing website, even if improving workplace chatter seems mind-numbingly boring.

[photo by Geoffrey Ellis]