Meet Liveblocks, a startup that has been working on a set of APIs so that it’s easier to build a collaborative product. Essentially, it lets you create multiplayer experiences on the web or in your app.
The company started with a live presence state API. If you integrate this API in your product, it means that you can show when somebody joins a page, a project or a document by displaying an avatar in a corner. You can also share the position of everyone’s cursor, text selection or content selection in real time.
Liveblocks is currently testing in private beta a live storage API. This is going to be a key feature as it is going to let multiple people view and edit the same data in real-time. For example, you can use it to develop a Google Docs competitor or if you want to add a whiteboard tool to your service.
The service works across multiple browsers and devices. Behind the scenes, the company uses a WebSocket connection for real-time communication. Pricing depends on the number of simultaneous connections that you expect around the same room, document, experience.
“Guillaume Salles and I decided to work together on a browser-based collaborative presentation/video tool. After months of iteration, we realized that we were spending a majority of our time figuring out how to handle the real‑time collaboration aspect of things, instead of focusing on the core mechanics of the tool,” co-founder and CEO Steven Fabre told me.
“We tried existing solutions, but none really stacked up for what we were trying to do so we decided to build our own. That's when it clicked and we decided to drop the presentation/video tool to ‘productify’ the APIs we had built for ourselves so any team could use them to build performant real-time collaborative products,” he added.
The company raised a $1.4 million pre-seed round during the summer. Investors include Boldstart, Seedcamp, Meta fund, Logic & Rhythm, Ian Storm Taylor, Max Stoiber, Moritz Plassnig, Badrul Farooqi and Anthony DiMare.
Right now, the Liveblocks team is just the two founders. With this funding round, the company plans to hire some engineers and launch its live storage API.
Liveblocks’ main advantage is that it’s a high-level API. Ably, a startup I’ve covered recently, focuses more on the low-level aspect of the problem. A React front-end developer can read the documentation and integrate Liveblocks in its product. You don’t have to understand how the infrastructure layer actually works to get started.