The Department of Product


Thursday, 31 August, 2023

Google Docs’ Grammarly clone and Salesforce margins improve

Hi product people 👋,

It’s hard to imagine now but Grammarly actually started life as a B2B tool with little competition, sold directly to universities. With the profits from over 250+ universities, the company was reportedly making $10 million in revenue a year, just 3 years after it was founded. Now, it faces one of its most potent threats in its history thanks to the launch of a new feature from Google Docs. Proofread is a new grammar tool which builds upon Docs’ existing set of capabilities in a new sidebar that features writing suggestions, sentence splitting and active voice help. The feature is currently only available to enterprise customers but could be more widely rolled out if successful.

Other new features worth knowing about this week include the launch of a new conversational AI tool from Sprig. If you’ve not heard of Sprig before, they’re a five year old startup that builds survey tools for product teams. The new conversational feature allows users to ask Sprig questions about users’ survey response data. It sounds useful in theory, and is no doubt powered by some impressive tech, but there’s still lingering questions over how widely adopted conversational UI will become.

Meanwhile, after cutting roughly 10% of its workforce, Salesforce reported a strong quarterly earnings. Revenues were up 22% year on year to $7.72 billion and the company said that new product features will be announced at their annual conference in September. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield left the company in December 2022 following rumours of a rift and the company recently rolled out a divisive new Slack redesign.

Speaking of Slack’s former employees, the company’s former head of growth, Merci Grace, has been busy building a startup of her own. Panobi is a growth platform for product teams designed to help measure core metrics like DAUs and MAUs by connecting directly to data warehouses. Its unique offering though, is that it not only helps teams measure metrics, but share them too. You can check it out in action here.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Essential reads for product teams

UX – How to implement dark mode

When choosing the color of fonts in dark mode, use one color with different levels of opacity. This allows you to accommodate different background colors throughout the interface. Using one color consistently at 100% opacity (such as a light gray) will look good on some backgrounds, and poor on others. (NN Group)

Technical explainers – What is web scraping?

Web scraping plays a role in many of the tools we use on a daily basis. From Google getting the information they need to make their search engine work, to AI companies (e.g. ChatGPT) collecting web data to train their models. (Technically)

Tools you can use

  • Todo Cap – a single place to capture all your to dos

  • DocsWrite – convert Google Docs to HTML

  • HeyDay – a memory assistant that resurfaces content you browse 

  • xTiles – a visual workspace for ideas and projects

Strategy – Why a ‘worse’ product strategy can still win

An objectively “worse” strategy can win, if it leverages something unique or unexpected. Startups can use this concept to beat incumbents. (A Smart Bear)

Case studies – How Twilio approaches CustomerAI

CustomerAI starts with its foundations in trust and the commitment that all of your data is yours. While privacy concerns have come to the forefront with AI, Twilio has always taken data privacy seriously. (Twilio Blog)

Podcast – Quantum computing explained

The Financial Times hosts a panel of experts to explore quantum computing, practical use cases and what it means for the future of tech

New product features, launches and announcements this week

Microsoft is doing what few product-led companies have the confidence to do: removing less-used features. Edge is ditching Math Solver, Picture Dictionary, Citations, Grammar Tools, and Kids Mode from the Chromium based browser. And if you’ve never heard of these features, that’s an indication Microsoft has probably made the right decision.

OpenAI has launched ChatGPT enterprise. The enterprise version includes longer context windows for inputs, advanced data analysis capabilities and customization options.

YouTube Music is getting a live lyrics feature which will automatically scroll lyrics as you listen. A new experimental feature is also in development that will allow users to search for a song by humming it.

Google Maps has launched three new APIs designed to boost sustainability. The new APIs include a Solar, designed to help measure solar energy panels, Air Quality for tracking pollution and Pollen to help measure common allergens producing planets.

DoorDash has introduced AI-powered voice ordering that answers calls and provides customers with curated recommendations. According to a recent DoorDash report, 1 in 5 consumers prefer to order by phone. 

📈 Product data and trends to stay informed

OnlyFans saw the number of creators rise 47% to 3.2 million last year. Registered users also surged 27% to 238 million with revenues of $1.09 billion. 

Analysts estimate that up to 90% of online content may be AI generated by 2026 according to a new report by European policing agency Europol. Full report on the challenges posed by deepfakes.

Tinder says the number of UK-based Gen Z women switching to a paid plan jumped 73% since the April launch of paid subscriptions.

Ecommerce live streamers are facing a crackdown in China for undercutting retailers. Over 1.2 million livestreamers now broadcast to 800 million users and the livestream ecommerce market has exploded. Wholesale markets have responded by banning them from entering their premises.

Travel app installs have exceeded pre-pandemic levels with a 8% rise in 2022 and 5% rise in H1 2023. Engagement is higher, too, with sessions increasing 13% year on year.

Tech leadership updates

Amazon’s CEO has told workers to return to office or ‘it’s not going to work out for you’ but  Atlassian’s CEO disagrees and has doubled down on remote working.

Snap has appointed Google Pay’s Pulkit Trivedi as India’s new country head.

Nvidia’s CEO says there is no chip shortage and that supply will increase for the next year, cementing its position as the world’s most valuable chip maker.

Gas Station by vector-based artist Grant Yun. Part of the ‘California’ series, Yun’s work uses no digital brushes and is inspired by 90s and 00s culture
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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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