Verisign, which does not have a particularly good history in the blogosphere, has purchased Weblogs.com. This leaves Ping-O-Matic as the only large-scale and independent ping relay service left. (Blo.gs was sold to Yahoo earlier in the year.) I can definitely see why Dave did this, he has probably found as I have that keeping up with the spammers exploiting the service requires a fair amount of daily effort, and I’m sure he has more interesting things to work on. People have been talking about this for months now, and while I was skeptical before I suppose it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise.
I’ve been trying to pin down in my mind why this deal just feels sketchy, like when you find out that nice girl you went to school with is engaged to the class bully. It just doesn’t feel like a healthy, long-term relationship. When blo.gs was sold to Yahoo it was an open-source and technically robust service being supported by a growing company full of smart people who really get the Web. The transition of blo.gs has had some bumps along the way, but it’s obvious that Yahoo is operating it for its intrinsic value to their other services, not trying to move their bottom line or impress investors with the buzzword “blog” in their next quarterly report. (Look at how all the press is saying things about RSS, even though it is only tangentially connected with RSS. Not an accident.) Weblogs.com is an older service that has stagnated for a while being lost to a company with a history of evil and a declining business with plans to embrace, extend, and monetize what should be a public service.
We should have been better prepared for this. Earlier in the year Verisign had the Boston Consulting Group calling people in the space trying to pick their brains, while at the same time refusing to reveal who they were working for. (Shady.) The “real time web” group also took me to dinner at one point and outlined their view for a “value-added” ping ecosystem (with Verisign in the middle, of course). Every major content producer and every company relying on the ping stream should be very worried about this move.
Other people have gotten so frustrated with the ping mess they’ve abandoned the existing ping community and standards and decided to produce their own feeds in a corner and let everybody come to them. In a format different from the over-hyped Feedmesh, no less, and with no discussion on that group. (As an aside, if the Livejournal stats match what their front page says, which looks like it would be 5-15 pings per second, that would be well within the means of Ping-O-Matic to handle in addition to its current load.) The state of the ping community is fairly bleak
What do we need to keep a BigCo from exploiting this space? A free, open, non-profit, and stable alternative supported by a consortium of organizations who understand that value should be built on top of pings, not in front of them. Ping-O-Matic is not this today, though the seeds of it are there in the servers and services Textdrive and Technorati to make the service 1000% more reliable than it was. Getting competing services to work together is never easy, but I fear if we don’t Verisign is going to successfully exploit the situation.