Intense Debate Goes Automattic

Some cool news today — Automattic is acquiring Intense Debate. You can read more on Jon’s blog on Intense Debate, or on Toni’s blog, or on VC Mike’s blog.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the product, Intense Debate supercharges the comment section of WordPress blogs and other sites with cool features like threading, reply by email, voting, reputation, and global profiles. There are a few companies tackling this space right now, but I was impressed with how much ID (Intense Debate) has been able to do with a small team, and happy to find that their common platform (PHP and MySQL) would make integration a lot easier.

Going forward, the plan is to keep Intense Debate available as a platform-agnostic independent service, much like Akismet. We’ll start to integrate its features into WordPress core,, and Gravatar as appropriate. For example, comment threading is going to be in WordPress 2.7, but reply by email is a lot easier to implement on a hosted service like We’re also going to be able to lend our expertise in scaling to the ID team to make sure their users enjoy the same hassle-free speed and bulletproof availability as users of other Automattic services.

Long-term, I think that comments are the most crucial interaction point for blogs, and an area that deserves a lot of investment and innovation. Comments really haven’t changed in a decade, and it’s time to spice things up a little.

We were early in the space with investing in Akismet to solve the spam problem, but now I think the real growth opportunities are in the user interaction and social features across comments. There is a huge opportunity to increase the traffic and engagement of blogs significantly. alone already gets about three legitimate comments every second — more than a quarter of a million every day. I’m excited to see what the Intense Debate team can do to make things more interesting.

118 thoughts on “Intense Debate Goes Automattic

  1. This is a great piece of news indeed. from my point of view!

    I’m still hesitating in “outsourcing” my comments to an outside service, mainly because those services are often anglo-centric and having a french-speaking website, well, integration is a pain.

    But I am following ID quite closely, since it seems the most conscious of the needs of international users.

    I really hope that with the power of Automattic behind it, now ID will also be able (amon other things) to tackle internationalisation (give a holler if you need any help! 🙂

    All the best to both teams, anyway.

  2. Extremely smart acquisition Matt — not only with their platform being so fantastic but more importantly a few more excellent team members 🙂

    Kudos, looking forward to seeing what comes of it!

  3. Aw, man, now I have more stuff to worry about theming!

    Just kidding. I’ve been impressed with how Gravatar was integrated with the WordPress core and I’m sure this will only help make things more interesting. Cheers.

  4. Hi Matt:
    THanks for the update!
    On Livejournal, I loved the threaded comments. Fabulous and you are rights, it helps the interaction and creates a tight community of users and readers.

    Looking forward to that feature.


  5. Congrats on the acquisition. As soon as I heard this news, I was a little bit terrified at how this would be put into WP. Until I read this blog post of yours. Personally, Intense Debate and similar services that host comments, haven’t been my best friends. I like the WP comment engine for its customization (form design, form layout, and so on), and am extremely glad that ID will be an extra, like Akismet. I’m sure it’ll grow on me over time, though. 🙂

    I can’t wait to meet you at WordCamp Toronto in October. 🙂

  6. I though I would start this Intense Debate by posting this comment. The news sounds really good though and I think that this type of approach will encourage more people to enter into discussions as opposed to just “commenting.” Though it should be interesting how we manage our time with all the extra debate going on around the blogosphere!

  7. Is using Intense Debate with self-hosted WordPress going to be mandatory? I strongly dislike the idea of shipping all my comments out to yet another service, as opposed to keeping them with my WordPress installation and data. Nor do I particularly care about ‘social features across comments’.

  8. Does that mean the intense debate team will become part of Automattic?
    Sounds great, i look forward to seeing the features integrated into the wordpress core 😀

  9. I don’t know what’s so fancy about “comment threading” – I like the old fashioned way “first comment first, last comment last”. But if it helps to keep WordPress free it’s okay with me. 😉

  10. *Impressive… Most impressive*

    Really, nicely done. I agree that the comment aspect is a huge component of blogs, and working on enhancing that can only be a good thing.

  11. Thanks Matt and thank you all. I (like many others, I guess) have often thought that one important thing missing at WordPress is the option to subscribe to comment threads by email. Blogger (am I allowed to use that word here?) do it — now with ID in the family, well, we have to be onto a winner, don’t we? Excellent!

  12. I’m not much of a 2.0 / social web / comments-are-king guy, but I’m beginning to understand that there’s little percentage in having a blog and not having it be open. The good of the readers and all that. Sigh. Resistance is futile, I guess.

    As for the business decision itself: A game-changer, and smart, very smart for both Automattic and IntenseDebate – especially as ID will still be available for other platforms.

  13. Very cool Matt, Was hoping to have voting functionality and comment threading is a major leap forward..


    PS appreciate your commentary to my “Greed is Good” blogpost

  14. Good decision.Blogging + Social commenting – the great trend.Additional intrigue: Intense Debate vs Disqus.I’m staking on Intense Debate (with WP!).:)

  15. Well done. This will be interesting.

    Just watched the following commentary by Larry Lessig on a “faux 2.0” site that doesn’t allow comments: (one that misrepresents him)

    How could the site have been open to rebuttals without being open to moronflames / opinionspam or whatever you want to call it? That, I think, is the $64k Q. Innovation there is sorely needed!

  16. That’s really a great news!!!very great!!!

    What a pity that I did not show you my improvements to the commenting system. Anyway, I will contribute my works to the new version and I hope every wordpress blogger and benefit!

  17. Oh .. seems a lot of wrong spellings and some grammar mistakes, haha. i am just too excited that you guys are acquiring intense debate 🙂

  18. Matt,

    This is an awesome move by Automattic and IntenseDebate – looking forward to getting the invite for the private beta! Congrats to both companies!

  19. Great news – both for my WP blog and my self-hosted one (also using WP). I have tried other systems and was leaning towards IntenseDebate for my self-hosted blog. I hope the integration will happen soon and it will work seamlessly. Great news, guys.

  20. Sounds fun…but, I was SO HOPING for email replies for .com…I hope it can happen! I forget to go back and check answers to my own comments so many times.

    As a note, would LOVE to see ability to use Mr. Linky also. (Where Blogger gets WordPress right now for a lot of women.)

  21. i’ve done my best with disqus and sending them feedback to help fix it. i’ll definitely plug in ‘intense debate’ when its good to go.

    off-topic – WTH is up with your blog comments? when did you make the transition from superstar to megarstar?

  22. This is excellent new Matt. WordPress has great traction right now for it’s blogs. Key is to keep adding functionality that will help the blog community and enable more participation with the content. Participation with the content is the core of social media. Great move to make WordPress better!

  23. Congratulations. I did notice that comments were a downfall in WordPress… One feature that I’d suggest is the ability to have other users mark comments as ‘spam’, (like YouTube), and notify users via email when their comment is approved.

  24. Does this mean that every WordPress user will automatically have an ID account, or will it just give your blog an ID comment system? Just curious. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having an ID account.