The Department of Product


Thursday, 15 June, 2023

Netflix's gamble pays off and Reddit starts an API war. Plus: a new tool for translations, Intercom charges per query and Google Meet gets easier on the go

Hi product people ūüĎč,

Of all the topics that you thought might start the next great internet rebellion, API pricing models were probably not high on your list. And yet, here we are: Reddit users have launched a massive revolt against the company, sparked by the introduction of the company’s aggressive new API pricing which is crippling third party apps. 

Since large language models are increasingly feeding off the information freely available to them via open APIs, a defensive countermove by large data sources was probably inevitable. Following in the footsteps of Twitter, FourSquare, Google Maps and others, Reddit took steps earlier this month to start charging for access to its APIs. But Reddit’s aggressive approach has angered users of various third party apps. As a result, several subreddits have shut down in protest. The company’s CEO is standing firmly behind the decision and has suggested that this too, like other controversies, shall pass. 

One company that is basking in the success of another controversial strategic decision is Netflix. This week it was reported that since the company rolled out its ban on account sharing, sign ups have increased 102%. It was certainly a bold move by the company’s product leaders, but for now at least, the move seems to have paid off remarkably well for the streaming giant.

Meanwhile, Intercom has launched a new AI-based customer service agent called Fin. And it, too, has a fairly novel pricing model that we’ve not seen used in this context before. Here’s how it works: you feed it all of your disparate support content from Zendesk, company blogs and other docs and switch it on. Intercom then charges you 99 cents per query solved. If the chat agent doesn’t solve your customer’s problem, you don’t pay. If it does, you do. It’s easy to see how this could add up substantially over time, but if it ultimately reduces the number is issues human customer service agents have to deal with, it’s likely a net benefit.

Other products on our radar this week include a handy all in one video platform called Zing by Train. Zing combines video editing, AI-generated voice overs and sharing tools into a neat package and is ideal for crafting quick demos to share with stakeholders. And if you need to translate it into other languages for colleagues overseas, this new product has you covered.

Finally, if you enjoy the weekly briefing and would like more in-depth content from the Department of Product, our new premium Substack is available now and you can find out more here.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

The Department of Product Briefing

Essential reads for product teams

Product strategy –¬†visionOS and spatial computing opportunities for product teams

Ecommerce, social media and travel naturally feel more suited to spatial computing. If you were responsible for developing the product strategies for each of these high scoring verticals, what kinds of experiences would you come up with? (Department of Product)

Technical explainers –¬†What is 2FA?

One of the most cost-effective ways to enhance a product’s security is by adding two-factor authentication (2FA). Sending a one-time password (OTP) via text messaging can help your users keep their assets private and secure. Adding 2FA to your product is easy when you use a cloud communications platform and Plivo can show you how. (Sponsor)

Interview- Zoom’s new chief product officer on her path to the top

Smita Hashim is the CPO at Zoom who has also held leadership positions at Microsoft and Google prior to joining the comms giant. In this interview she shares her personal journey to reaching C-level positions and how to thrive as a working mother. (Business Insider)

UX –¬†How to design skeleton screens

A skeleton screen is a design pattern used to indicate that a page is loading while providing users with a wireframe-like visual that mimics the layout of the page. This specific type of progress indicator is used exclusively for full-page loads. (NN Group)

Tools you can use

  • Whimsical AI¬†– a second pair of hands to help you create mind maps

  • ByeJira¬†– link Jira to your own personal productivity blocks instead

  • Softr¬†– no-code templates for customer onboarding, incident tracking and more

  • Reel¬†– copilot for LinkedIn to help with outreach, introductions and interviews

New product features, launches and announcements this week

Amazon is rolling out AI generated summaries of user reviews to help users get a quick snapshot of a product’s reviews before buying. 

Andressen Horowitz is opening a London office and plans to host the next Crypto Startup School there in 2024. The SEC is tightening its grip on cryptocurrencies with rumours that it is seeking to push central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) as a centralised alternative. International hubs are scrambling to capitalise on the legislative crackdown and UK PM Rishi Sunak hailed A16Z’s announcement as a vote of confidence for the capital during London Tech Week.

Instagram has introduced a new music-sharing status which allows users to post a short 30-second clip of a song they like, directly in their Notes. The company is also rumoured to be lining up its Twitter clone (codenamed Project 92), but whether there’s sufficient audience overlap for it to matter remains to be seen. 

Match is introducing a new live, time-sensitive feature called 72 hours. Users will have three days to either arrange an in-person meetup or exchange phone numbers or the chat disappears. 

Google Meet has launched a helpful new on-the-go mode for travelling meetings. The new mode transforms video conferencing by disabling your camera and stopping video streaming. It also simplifies the UI to focus on the current speaker, with larger buttons for raising your hand and muting or unmuting yourself.

ūüďąProduct data and trends to stay informed

A closer look at Netflix’s crackdown on account sharing which resulted in a 102% increase in account sign ups from the prior 60 day average. 

Italy’s ban on ChatGPT led to a 50% decline in engineering productivity according to a new study. The study also found that users quickly find ways to circumvent bans through VPNs and other means.

GitLab reported revenues of $126.9 million, up 45% year on year.

PNGs are the most popular image file formats for websites, used in 82% of sites. JPEGs are second, with 77.9%.

The average startup runway is 23.4 months, up from 19.6 months in January 2021.

According to GitHub, 92% of engineers are now using AI tools and 70% of respondents in a recent survey reported seeing benefits to using them.

Just 4% of smartphones sold in India are iPhones. India’s emerging middle class makes it a top target for Tim Cook’s growth plans.

Industry moves

Logitech’s CEO is departing the company. Board member Guy Gecht will step in until a new leader is appointed.

Twitter’s new CEO has officially started, sending her first email to employees this week.

GameStop has fired CEO Matthew Furlong just 2 years after his appointment. The stock tanked on the news.

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