Canva launches platform for developers, Eyes generative AI apps

Today at Canva’s first developer conference in San Francisco, the company announced a new developer platform, along with a $50 million “Innovation Fund.” Canva, a design platform that competes with the likes of Adobe and Figma, claims to have 135 million monthly active users. So this is a potential of great interest to developers, including independent developers, who will be able to charge money for the apps they create.

To learn more about Canva’s developer platform and why developers might want to use it, I spoke to Canva’s ecosystem manager, Anwar Haneef.

Key to the new development platform is the ‘Canva App’, described as ‘a JavaScript file that runs inside an iframe’. The file can then be viewed within Canva, which is both a web-based service and a cross-platform application, and access a number of APIs that interact with a user’s design. To build apps, developers have access to the Canva Apps SDK (Software Development Kit), which is now publicly available.

What types of apps will be created?

Canva’s user base is larger than Figma’s – it’s generally seen as a commercial or marketing tool, whereas Figma is explicitly aimed at designers (although I discovered earlier this year that many developers use Figma too ). Haneef said his users use Canva for various design purposes, such as marketing and sales materials and social media content.

When I asked what kind of apps Canva hopes to build for this huge user base, it’s no surprise that Haneef highlighted AI generative apps first. He expects to see AI apps like virtual avatars, image manipulation apps, and photo editing tools. In fact, one of the apps to be featured at the developer conference today is a generative audio app, which he says will generate personalized music for a Canva user.

“There’s a whole range of multimedia, visual and auditory application types that we expect,” Haneef said, “especially based on this Cambrian explosion of AI that’s happening recently.”

Canva apps

Canva AI app

Another area of ​​focus for Canva is workflow-focused apps, Haneef continued. Canva has many users with marketing and sales backgrounds, who use the platform to create designs and incorporate assets from digital asset management suites. So imagine apps that seamlessly integrate productivity tools, like Monday or Asana, into Canva.

A Canva App Store for developers

Canva apps will be a mix of free and paid options, so there will be a market for the apps. Haneef said Canva wants to make the platform sustainable for everyone involved, whether they are developers working on behalf of outside companies or independent developers hoping to monetize their app.

Developers will be able to set up subscription services or one-time payment models for their apps, Haneef confirmed. Additionally, developers are eligible to apply for the $50 million Canva Developers Innovation Fund.

Clearly, Canva is aimed at JavaScript developers first and foremost. But Haneef also said he wants to entice any other frontend developer to build on Canva. The APIs and tools provided by Canva are designed to be familiar and convenient for web developers to pick up and use, she said. They will offer pre-built components and libraries, which he says will allow developers to build apps “within days.”

Canva App Market

Canva App Market

While JavaScript is the main focus, Canva also has plans to roll out something called “connection APIs,” which will be REST APIs that can connect any external app with Canva. A waiting list for it will open today and the APIs will be ready by the end of the year, the company said in its press release.

Haneef added that the Connect APIs won’t have an SDK, so developers can use them with any programming language of their choice.

The advertising cycle “Canva for everything”.

Given its large user base and the fact that it can be used to design just about anything digital, Canva is often talked about on social media as a threat to other creator platforms. Just this week, Jamie Marsland (who runs a WordPress development shop) suggested that Canva is a threat to WordPress, because “Canva’s distribution potential is absolutely enormous.” He pointed out that Canva already has a one page site builder.

Commenters on Marsland’s tweet pointed out that Canva is currently more of a competitor to Photoshop. But this new developer platform could add a lot of nifty features for Canva users. Perhaps a CMS company will create an app that will actually turn Canva into a fully-fledged website builder.

Regardless, it’s clear that Canva itself has big ambitions to broaden its usage. According to Haneef, Canva aims to be “the most connectable platform in the world”. Sounds hyperbolic – and it is – but Canva’s large user base undoubtedly makes it an attractive proposition for developers. So, if you’re a developer looking for opportunities to connect and profit, then this new platform for Canva developers is worth checking out.

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