People

Figma's next product is a multiplayer whiteboard called FigJam

FigJam is a simple tool for brainstorming, and the next step toward the company's vision for a multiplayer internet.

FigJam example, with whiteboard and diagrams.

FigJam is meant to be a brainstorm tool, a freeform place for teams to just hang out and try stuff together.

Image: Figma

The most important thing Figma got right, even back in its early days, was to bet on multiplayer. It built a browser-based, inherently collaborative tool for interface design, like Google Docs for designers. (And then, unlike Google Docs, Figma spent years improving on the idea.) The market spent years moving toward Figma, first by making design a more important part of every company and product, and then by forcing everyone to work from home for a year. Suddenly an accessible, multiplayer design tool became a necessity.

In certain ways, though, the market was not just catching up to Figma but passing it by. Users didn't want a tool just for dragging around visual assets; they wanted a way to communicate, to brainstorm, to present. Figma CEO Dylan Field said he's been watching this happen during the pandemic: "People are making complex and cool illustrations, or they're planning out their gardens or their bookshelves, they're making cities online, or Slack goes down and they start chatting in Figma!" Figma thought its core feature was design, but users made clear that multiplayer was the thing.

In fact, that's been the case for years. "Back in 2015," Field said, "when we launched our closed beta, people were using it for diagramming and whiteboarding." But when the pandemic happened, the need suddenly felt more urgent, and the requests for whiteboarding features went up. So Field and Figma sped up the roadmap and built the company's second product ever: a whiteboarding app called FigJam. (Don't worry if the names are confusing; even Field had to enunciate each one as he explained them. But he liked the fun and punny-ness of the name, and he thinks you'll come around.) "What we've tried to create here is basically the best space, the best experience, for teams to be able to play together," Field said. It's designed to be simple and fun above all else.

As he flew around a screen-shared demo, Field used a fake Netflix design project to demonstrate FigJam's features. It has diagramming tools that allow users to drop boxes and draw arrows; it's easy to add Figma assets, add annotations or jot down notes. There's a permanent audio chat space, where people can jump in to discuss what they're looking at. Want to vote on something, or show support? Use a thumbs-up stamp, or click and hold to use a really big thumbs-up stamp. Or use the sticker that just says "Magic."

FigJam is meant to be a brainstorm tool, a freeform place for teams to just hang out and try stuff together. That's a tricky thing to get right on the internet, when spotty internet connections and laggy software can make for conflicting, messy collaboration. It's also an increasingly popular idea: Companies like Miro and Whimsical have grown during the pandemic as teams have looked for ways to work together remotely. Even Google and Microsoft are building increasingly powerful whiteboarding tools into their work offerings, paired with connected hardware — the Jamboard and the Surface Hub, respectively — for when some folks are back in person.

Figma's bet is that it can build the simplest, fastest, most interactive and multiplayer tool of them all. Which sounds like typical startup bluster, except that that's exactly how Figma took the design world by storm a few years ago.

Field pointed to an essay by designer John Palmer, called "Spatial Interfaces," which he said helped him understand how the multiplayer internet should feel. Palmer wrote: "I recently tried using Figma to hang out with friends in the evening due to its sense of presence. Live cursor positions let us all know that we were actively participating." That sense of movement, of using cursors as bodies, became core to the FigJam interface. "As we thought about how we make it so people can show up in the space and recognize others in the space," Field said, "that became sort of a principle." FigJam users can see each other's cursors as they move around the page, and type into a text box that appears above their own name to share thoughts and status updates. Chat becomes part of the whiteboard, and attached to the user, rather than relegated to a box off to the side.

FigJam is mostly a desktop app, because the kind of work it's good for is mostly done by people sitting at desktops and laptops. But Figma's slowly investing more in mobile. "Mobile for us is more about the browsing and consuming of work right now than the creation of work," Field said. The new version of the app makes it easier to mirror designs to a phone, or browse through FigJam boards. "But I think it'll be interesting to see down the road how we can use it — especially tablet — down the road for creation."

For now, FigJam is still a bit of an experiment. It's free to use through the end of 2021, partly as a kindness to remote workers and partly because it's very much still a beta product. Ultimately, it could be one in a line of new Figma products, bringing both visual thinking and collaboration to more corners of the internet. Field said he's confident that the next phase of the internet is about bringing multiplayer to everything, and Figma happens to be pretty good at doing so.

Protocol | Fintech

Crypto wallet maker Ledger gears up for battle with Dorsey’s Block

CEO Pascal Gauthier wishes Block’s CEO were still distracted with Twitter, but he’s still gunning for the big opportunity in securely stashing customers’ coins.

Ledger CEO Pascal Gauthier talked about Ledger’s strategy in an interview with Protocol.

Photo: Ledger

Ledger CEO Pascal Gauthier reacted with an odd mix of excitement and fear to news that Jack Dorsey was leaving Twitter to focus full-time on Square.

“Oh, shit,” was his immediate thought, he told Protocol. “I would have preferred him to stay with more companies and not focus on anything.”

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

In a tight labor market, businesses are competing for top talent, even as employees leave in droves. A record 4.4 million Americans resigned in September 2021 — the highest on record for nearly 20 years — ushering in what some call the Great Resignation. That same month, 65% of U.S. workers said they were looking for a new job.

Business leaders have to respond to mitigate the negative impacts of this disruptive churn, with 36% of CFOs saying they're very concerned about turnover remaining high indefinitely and weighing on revenue growth. The answers to this challenge should be informed by the root causes of employee dissatisfaction as well as retention drivers.

Keep Reading Show less
Suneet Dua, PwC
As PwC’s US Products & Technology Chief Revenue and Growth Officer, Suneet Dua is responsible for driving more than $1 billion in product revenue and executing PwC’s product revenue strategy. He’s focused on driving innovation, delivering world-class, forward-thinking products and digitally upskilling the workforce and society at large. With 20+ years of technology, media and entertainment industry experience, he’s positioned as a catalyst for organizational transformation and delivers on the firm’s promise to solve the world’s most important problems. Additionally, he launched Salesforce and client-focused centers of excellence, such as our Cybersecurity centers in Israel, Singapore and India––all to improve the way PwC serves its clients. During his tenure as US Chief Product Leader, Suneet, and his team, played a critical role in designing and implementing digital tools that upskilled more than 55,000 of its US employees, which led to the development of PwC’s digital learning platform, ProEdge, that addresses the digital skills gap crisis facing today’s workforce. He also serves as a board member of PwC’s Trifecta Consulting (US, China, Japan and Mexico). Previously, Suneet served on PwC’s US leadership team and was Global Client Market Leader for PwC’s Global Network.
Protocol | Fintech

A legal brawl failed to uncover bitcoin’s fabled creator

Is Craig Wright Satoshi Nakamoto? A trial didn’t lead to an answer.

Craig Wright has claimed to be the creator of bitcoin.

Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for CoinGeek

A legal battle was supposed to answer the biggest question in crypto: Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

Well, that didn’t exactly happen. The identity of bitcoin’s fabled creator remains a mystery, despite high hopes that an unusual civil suit would lead to Nakamoto’s unmasking.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Snap CTO Bobby Murphy on embracing Apple’s AR glasses

Snap is building its own AR Spectacles, but the company also wants to embrace third-party devices.

Bobby Murphy wants Snap’s AR lenses to run everywhere — even on hardware made by competitors.

Photo: Getty Images for Snap Inc

Snap is all in on AR: The Snapchat maker has been building its own AR glasses, and is currently testing an early version with a small group of creators. Snap has also signed up 250,000 creators to build mobile-centric AR experiences through its Lens Studio platform, whose lenses have collectively been viewed over 3.5 trillion times.

Snap celebrated those milestones at its Lens Fest Tuesday, which the company also used to release a number of updates for both mobile and headworn AR. Snap CTO Bobby Murphy recently put that work in context in an interview with Protocol, in which he talked about the company’s progress in building AR Spectacles, why it isn’t focused on non-AR wearables anymore and why it ultimately also wants to build apps and experiences for AR devices made by its competitors.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Discord launches paid channel memberships

The company’s new subscription tiers effectively broaden the creator economy to include people managing communities.

Select Discord server creators can start charging membership fees as part of a new pilot program.

Image: Discord

Creating and managing successful communities can be a lot of work. Now, Discord wants to make sure that the people doing this on its platform can also reap some rewards: The company launched a pilot program for premium memberships Tuesday that allows community creators to put parts or all of their servers behind a paywall.

“We want to make sure that running communities on Discord is more sustainable,” said Discord Engineering Director Sumeet Vaidya in an interview with Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Latest Stories
Bulletins