Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Canva Acquires Affinity/Serif

Jess Weatherbed (Hacker News, MacRumors, Mac Power Users):

Web-based design platform Canva has acquired the Affinity creative software suite, positioning itself as a challenger to Adobe’s grip over the digital design industry. Canva announced the deal on Tuesday, which gives the company ownership over Affinity Designer, Photo, and Publisher — three popular creative applications for Windows, Mac, and iPad that provide similar features to Adobe’s Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign software, respectively.

Official figures for the deal have not been revealed, but Bloomberg reports that it’s valued at “several hundred million [British] pounds.” Nevertheless, the acquisition makes sense as the Australian-based company tries to attract more creative professionals. As of January this year, Canva’s design platform attracted around 170 million monthly global users. That’s a lot of people who probably aren’t using equivalent Adobe software like Express, but unlike Adobe, Canva doesn’t have its own design applications that target creative professionals like illustrators, photographers, and video editors.

Olivia Poh (via Hacker News):

It’s the biggest outlay yet by Australia’s most valuable startup, priced at $26 billion in its latest share sale, and marks a milestone in the expansion of its range of professional tools.

Affinity (Mastodon, PR, forum, 2):

None of that changes today.

In Canva, we’ve found a kindred spirit who can help us take Affinity to new levels. Their extra resources will mean we can deliver much more, much faster. Beyond that, we can forge new horizons for Affinity products, opening up a world of possibilities which previously would never have been achievable.


There are no changes to our current pricing model planned at this time, with all our apps still available as a one-off purchase. Existing Affinity users will be able to continue to use your apps in perpetuity as they were originally purchased – with plenty of free updates to V2 still to look forward to!


Trusted by more than three million creative professionals across the globe, Affinity’s award-winning suite of professional design software has become a sought-after solution for everything from photo editing to complex graphic and vector design. Together, we’re setting our sights on empowering every kind of team and organization to achieve their goals.


While our last decade at Canva has focused heavily on the 99% of knowledge workers without design training, truly empowering the world to design includes empowering professional designers too. By joining forces with Affinity, we’re excited to unlock the full spectrum of designers at every level and stage of the design journey.

Nick Bonyhady:

Canva has made its largest acquisition to date, likely spending more than $1 billion to buy professional design software company Serif to compete directly with Adobe as its prepares a long run at going public.

Craig Grannell (Mastodon):

Although the press has in recent years often positioned Serif as a kind of scrappy underdog newcomer, the company has a long history. It was founded in 1987, which makes it only five years younger than Adobe. Most of its recent history has been tied up in becoming a direct competitor to Adobe – and also a direct competitor to Adobe’s business model. Through its Affinity suite, Serif offered an alternative: buy-once apps rather than subscriptions. And although I can’t imagine Serif makes anything other than a minority of its sales on iPad, the company’s superb Affinity apps for Apple’s tablet – compared to Adobe’s comparatively stumbling efforts – haven’t hurt the company’s reputation any.


Version 3 of the Affinity suite will probably be the moment we’ll know. You can already picture a press release stating that Canva has made the “difficult decision” to move Affinity apps to subscriptions, and a “hard choice” to move development from Nottingham to Canva HQ in Australia. I hope this won’t be the case, but we’ve seen this scenario play out so many times before.

Rui Carmo:

The Affinity suite is (for the moment) good quality native Mac software that does not rely on cloud features nor has a subscription model.

As much as their FAQ claims that will not change, I think we’ve all seen this before–in short, I don’t trust Canva one whit and fully expect to revisit this post in a year when Serif/Affinity breaks one of those three tenets above and forces me to move away from their software.

Christina Warren:

I’m selfishly sad to see Canva acquire Affinity b/c I know it will the end to our cheap perpetually-licensed design tools for Mac/Windows/iOS, however, this is a really smart move from Canva who makes an excellent web-based design tool for normies.


Affinity (2022, via John Gruber):

Ain’t nobody acquiring us 😎

Update (2024-03-27): See also: TidBITS-Talk.

Update (2024-03-28): Scharon Harding (via Craig Grannell):

“Perpetual licenses will always be offered, and we will always price Affinity fairly and affordably,” an announcement today from Canva and Affinity said.

If Canva ever decides to sell Affinity as a subscription, perpetual licensing will remain available, Canva said, adding: “This fits with enabling Canva users to start adopting Affinity. It could also allow us to offer Affinity users a way to scale their workflows using Canva as a platform to share and collaborate on their Affinity assets, if they choose to.”

Rui Carmo:

Wow, Affinity and canva are really trying to do damage control here, but the reality is nobody believes that existing customers won’t be coaxed into a subscription service or cloud features they don’t need. We can blame Adobe for poisoning the well, I guess.

Update (2024-04-02): Adam Engst:

The match is a good one. The Affinity suite provides significantly more layout power than Canva’s browser-based tools, but Canva offers cloud and collaboration capabilities that are missing from the Affinity apps. I have long maintained that collaboration tools will win out over other features in the mass market because most modern projects involve multiple people. That’s why I do all my writing in Google Docs instead of the more powerful Nisus Writer Pro or BBEdit.


With luck, Canva will make good on all these promises and provide designers of all levels with an even more compelling alternative to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Perhaps that, in turn, will spur Adobe to develop innovative new features and offer solutions to those for whom Creative Cloud is overkill.


7 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

"None of that changes today."

But check back in a year or two!

Just dreadful, dreadful news. Nothing lasts forever but these days it feels like nothing lasts at all before someone comes along to ruin it.

Procreate will be next......

Beatrix Willius

I was really disappointed after the announcement. It was so much work to move all my icons to Affinity Designer. Affinity Photo should be easier to replace.

I bought both v1 and v2 of the entire Affinity suite, and I wanted to love them. Truth is though, they were always awkward applications, that behaved as if they were made by people who didn't actually do the tasks you used them to do.

Publisher, lacking document-wide layers, feels like the sot of thing that would only be made by someone who didn't actually do desktop publishing, in which document-wide layers are the fundamental tool for how you build multipage documents (I think we got those in Pagemaker 6 / Quark 4 (possibly even 3) long before InDesign was a thing.

Then there was vector masks for bitmap layers, that couldn't show their bitmap art while the vector was being edited - why would you need to edit a mask, and see the content it's masking at the same time? Kinda important to the process.

Version 2 they removed the ability on the Mac to have more than one document window open on screen at once, so you couldn't work on two different documents at once, using one as reference, or developing / equalising work across both of them at once - you could only have documents in tabs without only one visible at once. The logic being "this is how it works on windows".

It's sad, because their business model was great, and some of the individual features were good, but the apps overall suffered from the fact they existed to monetise a file format "innovation", which dictated the abilities of the app, rather than starting with the workflow and tools, and building a file format to support that. Designer couldn't do document-wide layers, because the .affinity file format was in the way, and having a single file format was more important than the app being designed specifically as the best tool for the job.

If they go away into subscription-land, no doubt most of their users will switch back to Adobe if they can't find a purchasable alternative. That's my real concern, that they think their userbase are loyal to their product, not their economic model.


"Then there was vector masks for bitmap layers *in Photo*"

"Version 2 they removed the ability *in Photo* on the Mac"

"you could only have documents in tabs, *with* only one visible at once."

"*Publisher* couldn't do document-wide layers"

Ah yes, Affinity's software reached the "actually good, usable, and popular" stage of the enshittification process, which means it was time for them to move on to the next stage: getting bought and/or investors, which means they're going to fuck everything up. We've seen this countless times before.

I'll be shocked if Affinity's software suite is still any good five years from now.

I've never heard of Affinity before, but Canva keeps popping up. So since I have full insight in all of this I can say this is a mistake.

Canva are thinking "Aha, we have this simple and cheerful way to create 'content' for 'social-media' that marketing departments love. Obviously we should start targeting the professional creatives that use full fledged editing software!"

They look into what it would cost to create a suite of installables and then they think: "Oh, what's that? A company that have what we want. Let's buy them!"

Completely disregarding the differences in business model, runtime, users, etc etc.

Three years of misery and then this will die.

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