Protocol | Workplace

The whiteboard wars: Miro and Figma want to make meetings better

Miro and Figma separately launched features on Tuesday aimed at improving collaboration on their platforms.

Figma and Miro logos

Whiteboard rivals Miro and Figma each released collaboration improvements.

Logos: Figma and Miro

We expect a lot from our productivity tools these days. You can't just stroll over to your team members' desks and show them what you're working on anymore. Most of those interactions need to happen online, and it's even better if the work and the communication can happen in one place. Miro and Figma — competitors in the collaborative whiteboard space — understand how critical remote collaboration is, and are both working to up their meeting game.

This week, both platforms announced features aimed at improving the collaboration experience, each vying to be the home base for teams to work and hang out together. Figma announced updates to its multiplayer whiteboard FigJam, and Miro announced a new set of tools that it's calling Miro Smart Meetings. Figma's goal is to make FigJam more customizable and accessible for everyone; Miro wants to be the best place for content-centered, professional meetings. They both want to be the go-to hub for teams looking to get stuff done.

The timing of the announcements is rather funny, considering the two are pretty competitive. Figma has a whole page on their site directly comparing Miro to FigJam. Their pricing approach is different, with Miro currently focusing more on paid plans and Figma focusing on broad access. FigJam is free in beta right now, and will stay free within the starter plan. When it leaves beta in February 2022, it will cost $3 per editor each month on its professional plan and $5 per editor each month on its organization plan. Both paid plans have unlimited shared whiteboards, but the organizational plan offers private plug-ins and more advanced security. Miro Smart Meetings is currently available in beta for all paid and education plans, and will remain available to these plan holders when it leaves beta later this year or early 2022.

"We always encourage new developments in the digital whiteboard industry because it signals a growing appetite for new ways to connect and collaborate," said Miro CPO Varun Parmar, referencing FigJam.

FigJam launched back in April 2021, signifying Figma's ambitions to be the best place for collaboration, not solely a place for designers. Figma CEO Dylan Field said since then, Figma has realized people are using the FigJam product in totally different ways. "We got a lot of longtail requests in terms of what people want to see in a whiteboard space," Field said. "It turns out people use spaces in so many different ways. So how do you make it so you can accommodate all these different uses?"

The answer: Release more widgets and plug-ins so users can adapt their workspace. Over the summer, Figma worked with developers on building widgets for polling, drawing from data tables and tic-tac-toe, among others. They partnered with companies like Donut, which contributed an icebreaker widget, and Vimeo, which is working on allowing screen capture within a Figma file.

Miro's fundamental mission is to provide a space for engaging and meaningful meetings, Parmar said. This is the goal behind Miro Smart Meetings, which includes an array of meeting templates with contributions from companies like Dropbox, Deloitte and Salesforce. Other tools are automated meeting outlines based on the content on your Miro board, and customizable meeting settings.

Miro announced Smart Meetings and other developments at its user conference, Distributed. It also announced beta tools coming in November, including a "clustering" function that sorts through a team's sticky-note responses and groups them by similarity. Parmar said making meetings fun was another priority, which is why Miro Smart Meetings includes the ability to add reactions and stickers to items on the board. "It brings a little bit of joy and smile and playfulness when you're in meetings that are pretty intense, when you're trying to discuss things that might be contentious," Parmar said.

Miro and Figma also both want to make it easier for those without accounts to enter their meeting spaces. The barrier of creating an account or installing software can be a deterrent to using certain productivity tools — we want to use collaboration tools without forcing clients or team members to download them. Miro Consultant and Business customers are now able to invite an unlimited number of guests to their Miro boards. For its part, Figma launched Open sessions, allowing those without a FigJam account to join their session for up to 24 hours before they need to restart another open session.

Field hopes teams large and small will flock to FigJam, and Parmar hopes Miro Smart Meetings helps organizations nail remote meetings. As Figma and Miro fine-tune their attempts to become meeting hubs in addition to whiteboard apps, it remains to be seen whether one of them will become the go-to option for "content-centric" meetings or if we'll just keep downloading new productivity apps for the rest of our lives.

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