In this paper we discuss the role of computers in supporting real-time synchronous design among geographically dispersed team members using the global network of computers known as the Internet. To enable efficient and functional synchronous design activity, we advocate a new generation of design-oriented software that combines collaboration technologies with a meaningful and parsimonious representation scheme. We are particularly interested in supporting the early design phases, wherein many of the most important decisions are made and collaboration is most important. These activities are crucial to the evolution and quality of the final design, and they are receptive to and can benefit from computer support. Furthermore, these are precisely the areas where current CAD systems are weakest. As a general theoretical direction, our emphasis is not on integrated databases, but rather on shared protocols of interaction that are independent of implementation and storage schemes. Our first experimental phase involved the simultaneous development and testing of prototypes for a Synchronous Collaborative Design Environment (SYCODE) on heterogeneous computer systems at two geographically dispersed sites. The applications were developed independently, based on a verbal description of protocols, with minimal sharing of actual source code. Though their user interfaces and implementation details are different, these prototypes allow multiple users to share a virtual design space - both within and between the remote sites - in which to create and manipulate architectural elements.