The Department of Product


Thursday, 17 August, 2023

Google Maps' new rival and ChatGPT usage declines. Plus: NYT bans LLMs, a new tool for multi-user collaboration, TikTok shuts off its algorithm

Hi product people 👋,

Despite Zoom’s recent return to office mandates, a big chunk of product development work still happens remotely. And one of the challenges of remote work is collaboration: designers shaping the scope of features with engineers, PMs communicating the vision to team members or engineers pair programming. Now, a new product we discovered this week is specifically designed to make remote collaboration easier. Multi is a Mac desktop app designed to help teams “build software, faster, together”. Features include multicursor shared control which allows users to see everyone’s cursor at the same time, invisible calls designed to make users feel as though they’re working side by side and a feature called shared control which transforms any app into ‘multiplayer’ experience. The product is currently in a beta phase but you can see it in action and find out more here.

Other new products on our radar this week include a new release from productivity tool Allo. OKR by Allo is designed to help teams make their OKRs more visual and engaging. The new feature also allows users to plug their OKRs into other documents, including whiteboards.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has confirmed a new default theme and font is on the way. A new entry into the company’s transparent roadmap shows that Office apps including Excel, Word and Powerpoint will all get a new theme and color palette – plus, they’re also getting the company’s new default font. Aptos will replace Calibri across Microsoft’s suite of apps, the first change in over 15 years. In a blog post outlining the new font, Microsoft’s Principal Program Manager Si Daniels explained that Aptos was chosen after the company commissioned 5 new fonts in 2021 and asked users for feedback. The new font is designed to ‘induce trust’ and be ‘more engaging’ to read.

In other Microsoft news, the company has confirmed it is to set aside its differences and work alongside competitors including Meta and Amazon on the development of a new maps alternative to Google. For a breakdown of why this is happening, check out this excellent piece of analysis.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Essential reads for product teams

Latest from the Department of Product Substack

Product Database: Project Management tools

In this edition, we’re focusing on project management. Product development teams need to get stuff done – and even if you don’t have a dedicated project manager in your team, these tools should still come in handy for keeping track of work all in one place. (Department of Product)

Tools you can use

  • Beeper – put all your chats in one app

  • Echo – turn user feedback into actionable tasks

  • Qatalog – a central system for your team

  • Matter – everything you read on the web in one place

UX – How to do tree testing for navigation hierarchy 

Developing an effective navigation hierarchy is a challenge. Even when following best practices for understandable information architecture, you cannot be sure that your categorization and labeling choices will make sense to your users.  (NN Group)

Strategy – What to do when product growth stalls

At first, everything seems rosy. The growth rate of a new product is spiking, and growing quickly, maybe even hundreds of percentage points a year. But weirdly, a year or two in, there’s some softness in the latest numbers. Maybe it’s seasonality, or maybe something else. But worryingly, it keeps slowing. (Andrew Chen)

Report – The latest SaaS pricing trends

The report is based on over 3,000 transactions processed on the Vendr platform for Q2, totaling over $240 million in SaaS spend. We reviewed the report and uncovered some valuable insights for you. ( 


Interview – How to build a great company culture

Angela Ahredts, Eric Schmidt and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sit down with host Bob Safian to discuss how they’ve built and rebuilt great cultures at Apple, Uber, Google and more


New product features, launches and announcements this week

Google Slides is getting native annotations support for presentations. The new pen tool will allow users to circle, underline, draw connections or make notes directly onto presentations. Very helpful indeed.

Substack is now allowing users to follow writers without subscribing to their newsletter. The subscribe button will remain the primary CTA on profiles but following a user will allow people to stay up to date with their Notes and likes. “We have big plans in this area, and you can expect much more to come in the months ahead.” says Substack in a post outlining the changes.

TikTok is allowing users to shut off its algorithm by making it optional in the EU. The design changes are necessary to protect people’s right to “cognitive liberty”. 

WhatsApp is introducing screen sharing during video calls. The feature will work across OS, too so that Android users can share with iOS users.

The New York Times has updated its terms of service to prohibit its content being used to train artificial intelligence models. The move follows other companies including Spotify who also updated their own terms to prohibit the practice. 

📈 Product data and trends to stay informed

ChatGPT’s web users fell for the first time ever in June with 97 million visits – a 7% drop. New user sign ups fell by almost a third. A sign of GPT-fatigue or seasonality?

DAUs for Threads have plateaued at around 23 million users – a ~50% drop from highs of 49 million shortly after its launch.

More than 80% of TikTok owner’s revenue comes from its domestic operations in China – in part thanks to its video-sharing app Douyin. 

Unicorns are becoming a mythical creature in the startup world again. July saw just 3 new companies reach the $1 billion valuation necessary. In December 2021, 67 companies achieved the milestone. 

Thumbnail creators are charging up to $10,000 per thumbnail – but AI is a major threat.

Dates for your diary

Keeping track of everything that’s going on in the tech calendar is tricky. Here’s a bunch of stuff coming up:

Tech leadership changes

PayPal has unveiled Intuit exec Alex Chriss as its new CEO.

Former Apple exec Peter Stern is joining Ford to lead its new consumer software business.

Amazon devices exec David Limp is to retire later this year after more than 13 years at the company. 

All yours, all free. Enter your email to receive your briefing.

Product Briefing – November 9, 2023

GPTs for everything, Google Maps gets Immersive, Netflix’s QR codes
Plus: Slack’s CEO exits, How to use conjoint analysis, a new tool for reading API documentation

Product Briefing – November 2, 2023

Google Slides’ superpowers, a Sublime second brain, Pinterest’s PMF
Plus: Tech salary report, how to manage API integrations, Spotify, Instagram and LinkedIn MAUs in context

Product Briefing – October 26, 2023

Discord monetization strategies, Slack ditches X, Spotify growth
Plus: 50+ product analytics tools, Microsoft impresses, Google Meet gets appearance enhancers

Product Briefing – October 19, 2023

Netflix’s $8 billion quarter, Figma in limbo, Synthetic UX research. Plus: YouTube’s major release, a new way to manage your calendar, the Web Technologies Report 2023

Product Briefing – October 5, 2023

Google Docs’ new competitor, AI wars, App industry benchmarks
Plus: Airbnb’s ML patent, DoorDash’s swipe for restaurants and Uber expands to returns

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