Adobe Inc.’s planned acquisition of collaboration software maker Figma has sparked concern among its tightknit community of users.
After Adobe announced it would acquire the company for $20 billion in cash and stock last week, Figma users said they are worried about potential pricing changes and a slowdown in innovation on the platform. Some compared it to Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia in 2005, which ultimately resulted in the discontinuation of some of the web-development software provider’s key products.
“I think people are a bit worried that Figma might go the same way,” said Tadhg McCarthy, chief design officer at digital product consulting firm Elsewhen.
Figma has a loyal customer base of digital creators that appreciates its price accessibility, the pace at which it rolls out new features and how responsive it is to community feedback. Figma’s starter plan is free to use. In many instances, users switched over to it from Adobe products for those reasons.
Figma and Adobe, which is known for products like Photoshop and Illustrator, said they plan to keep these elements and allow Figma to continue operating autonomously under the deal. Both companies said they are aware of user concerns and hope they can prove them wrong in the coming months and years.
“The first impression was probably apprehension,” said Elsewhen’s Mr. McCarthy, “and just concern that we’ll end up with a tool that takes on the same speed and the same kind of bloat as we were used to back when Adobe was the tool of choice.”
Elsewhen said it started using Figma in 2019, and since then it has become the collaborative hub of the entire company, replacing a number of existing tools.
The fear is “not necessarily that it’s going to get worse, it’s that it’s just not going to get better anymore,” Mr. McCarthy said. He added that when Adobe acquired Macromedia, those tools, while not perfect, were still innovating. That innovation stalled post acquisition and some of the tools, including Flash, were ultimately discontinued.
Scott Belsky, chief product officer of Adobe Creative Cloud, said the company is owning the fact that there are things it has and hasn’t done well related to previous acquisitions. While the Macromedia deal was nearly 20 years ago, Mr. Belsky pointed to more recent acquisitions, such as Behance and Frame.io, that are still alive and thriving.
Chris Marsh, research director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said that users’ concerns, while valid given Adobe’s history, are probably a little overblown. He added that Adobe has enough sense not to do what it has done with previous acquisitions, in part because of the massive price tag.
“You wouldn’t acquire a competitor for $20 billion just to essentially not have that competitor anymore,” Mr. Marsh said.
Figma said it has hosted town halls on Twitter aimed at addressing some of the community concerns around the acquisition. Since last week, the social media site has become a popular forum for Figma users to voice their worries.
“I saw quite a few concerns that the prices are gonna be raised,” said Stewart Scott-Curran, the senior director of brand at video-messaging company Loom, a Figma customer. He added, though, that “there’s probably some wiggle room to bring the prices up a little bit and still have it be a very accessible price point.”
Mr. McCarthy said that Elsewhen pays three to four times more for Adobe products than it does for Figma products. Currently the company has two Adobe licenses and 49 Figma licenses, he said.
If Figma price points approached some of the existing price points for Adobe products, “our costs would go through the roof,” said Mr. McCarthy.
“Recognizing that we are in an unpredictable, inflationary environment, we currently have no plan to change Figma’s pricing,” a Figma spokesperson said.
According to Fons Mans, a designer based in the Netherlands, “People are mostly afraid to lose that community aspect.” He said that there are examples of other Adobe acquisitions, including Behance, where the community slowly became less active.
“People are afraid that the same is bound to happen with Figma,” he said.
Both Adobe and Figma said that the strong community element is part of what made Figma so valuable and attractive to Adobe and they hope it can remain.
“I do think that we can continue to have this amazing community, but I think it’s something that we have to prove,” said Yuhki Yamashita, Figma’s chief product officer. “Now is our time to show them.”
Write to Isabelle Bousquette at Isabelle.Bousquette@wsj.com
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