Categories
Automattic

SPDY in Nginx

One of the cornerstones of Automattic’s web-scale infrastructure is a project out of Russia we started using in 2008 called Nginx. Don’t let the sparse website fool you, Nginx (pronounced engine-ex) has been taking high-end websites by storm, and is used on 24% of the top thousand websites (a good chunk of them WordPress). I was very proud of our team helping sponsor and debug SPDY support in the latest release. Hopefully this accelerates the adoption of technology like SPDY that improves the user experience of the web.

Categories
Automattic Essays Open Source WordPress

A New Home for the WordPress Trademark

As I write this, I’m on my way to Seaside, Florida to see 60+ Automatticians at our yearly meetup. More than sixty… that number astounds me! Automattic has grown so far beyond what I originally imagined and every day I’m amazed by my colleagues and the things they create. Today we’re growing in another way: Automattic has transferred the WordPress trademark to the WordPress Foundation, the non-profit dedicated to promoting and ensuring access to WordPress and related open source projects in perpetuity. This means that the most central piece of WordPress’s identity, its name, is now fully independent from any company.

This is a really big deal.

I want to recognize and applaud the courage and foresight of Automattic’s board, investors, and legal counsel who made this possible: Mike Hirshland, Phil Black, Tony Conrad, Toni Schneider, Gunderson Dettmer. I’d also like to thank Matt Bartus of Dorsey & Whitney for their counsel on the Foundation side. The WordPress brand has grown immeasurably in the past 5 years and it’s not often you see a for-profit company donate one of their most valuable core assets and give up control. However, I know in my heart that this is the right thing for the entire WordPress community, and they followed me on that. It wasn’t easy, but things worth doing seldom are.

When Automattic registered the WordPress trademark back in 2006, we were a small startup of a few people: a business founded largely to enable us to work on WordPress full-time instead of hacking around our day jobs. A lot has changed since then — somehow along the way we ended up with an audience of a quarter billion people — but a lot has stayed the same. We’re still a group of people in love with WordPress and free/open source software and we’re lucky to have figured out a way to contribute to the world and flourish as a business while doing it.

Automattic might not always be under my influence, so from the beginning I envisioned a structure where for-profit, non-profit, and not-just-for-profit could coexist and balance each other out. It’s important for me to know that WordPress will be protected and that the brand will continue to be a beacon of open source freedom regardless of whether any company is as benevolent as Automattic has been thus far. It’s important to me to know that we’ve done the right thing. Hopefully, it’s important to you, too, and you’ll continue your support of WordPress, the WordPress Foundation, and Automattic’s products and services. We couldn’t do it without you!

Categories
Automattic Essays

How P2 Changed Automattic

If you haven’t heard of P2 yet, check out this quick video:

Almost everyone at Automattic is a blogger, but for the first couple of years of the company we didn’t blog much internally. Everything happened over IRC, Skype, and email. (In that order.) Eventually we started a blog that worked like a traditional blog did with long posts and comments, but everyone forgot to visit it until I wrote a quick script on cron job that would email everybody summaries of new posts and comments.

There was a disconnect we couldn’t reconcile: even though our internal blogs didn’t work out most of the company was active on Twitter every day. (WordPress users are some of the most passionate adopters of micro-blogging.)

We found a solution in Prologue which added a posting box to the home page and gave it a Twitter-like feel. Now Automattic had a pulse, a place where the incredible amount of activity was chronicled and captured. It was low-friction and hassle-free, we all started using it more.

But there was still a problem, Prologue was great for status updates but terribly awkward for conversation. P2 solves all this by moving the conversation inline on the homepage. Conversations can be fully threaded using 2.7’s new comment features. Finally the blog started to get so busy we made it real time so you can just leave the page open and new stuff will come in. (It’s hard to describe, so watch the video above.) Seemingly simple changes have increased engagement many-fold: our main P2 now has over 4,700 posts in it with 1,100 of those in the past 60 days.

It completely transformed how Automattic works internally and I think is one of the most valuable things we’ve adopted in the past year. I’m on the road a lot, and sometimes my only connection is checking the mobile-optimized P2 on my iPhone.

I’m excited about P2 partly because blogs provide an incredibly robust infrastructure on which to build more advanced apps and this is a good example of that. I’d love to see more themes that transform what WordPress can do top-to-bottom.

You can get P2 for your WordPress.org blog here, and it’s available for all of WordPress.com too.

Categories
Automattic Essays

Blo.gs Lives On

Do you guys remember Blo.gs? In addition to being a cool domain, it’s a ping-update service like Ping-O-Matic that was started by Jim Winstead and acquired by Yahoo in June of 2005.

Some exciting news today: Yahoo! is transferring blo.gs to Automattic for safekeeping and further development. I’ve been a long-time fan of the service, and it even inspired the early WordPress feature which reordered your blogroll based on update times.

We’re looking forward to beefing up the service and giving it a refresh, while continuing its reputation for reliability. It makes me nostalgic to hear the name “blo.gs” again, I even still have the t-shirt they made for a Feedmesh meetup years ago. (For a big blast from the past, check out the discussion around feedmesh and real-time, distributed updates. Everything old is new again.) Major kudos to Yahoo! for giving us the chance to do so — I think most companies would have just shuttered it.

Toni has a few more thoughts.

Categories
Automattic Essays WordCamp

Tune in to WordPress.tv

Today we’ve switched on WordPress.tv, a new space to geek out and learn about all things WordPress.

WordPress.tv is home to tutorials for both WordPress self-installs and WordPress.com to help you get blogging fast and hassle-free.

We’ve also aggregated and organized all that awesome WordCamp footage from around the web, on WordCampTV. There you’ll find videos and slideshows of presentations made by Automattic employees and other WordPress gurus, plus interviews I’ve done with the media and fellow bloggers.

Tune in regularly for fresh content and updates to the WordPress.tv blog.

As always, community comes first. You have a say in shaping the future of WordPress.tv. Just drop us a line and let us know what you’d like to see added next.

Categories
Automattic

Intensely Automattic Change.gov

Everyone is honored and excited today that Change.gov, the website of President Elect Barack Obama, has turned on IntenseDebate comments to discuss things like health care.

Micah Sifry has an excellent write up of the topic.

Imagine what happens if those numbers–on not just any “centralized site” but the one that symbolically and perhaps literally has the attention of the President-elect–start climbing into the five- and six-digits. Before our eyes, we are witnessing the beginning of a rebooting of the American political system. [emphasis added]

[…]

By using IntenseDebate (and the OpenID framework), the Obama transition is actually enabling a lot of interesting community development to start happening beneath the surface of a threaded discussion. Users get their own “commenter profile” on IntenseDebate, along with reputation points, and they can carry those profiles onto other sites that use the same system. Users can also choose to follow other IntenseDebate users, so if someone is really diligent they could start to gather a group or a crowd around them.

It has even started to make the cable news, as evidenced in this clip.

Pretty exciting! And it’s also a reaffirmation of Automattic’s platform-agnostic approach to Akismet, Gravatar, PollDaddy, and IntenseDebate that although Change.gov uses Expression Engine for their CMS they’ve chosen IntenseDebate for their comments.

Categories
Automattic

PollDaddy Goes Automattic

It’s another exciting day here at Automattic. Today we finally get to announce that we’ve acquired the market-leading poll and survey service PollDaddy.

For a year or two now, I’ve been minorly obsessed with polls and surveys as a method of lightweight interaction that engages casual users of your website and also can get you some really fun data to play with. I’ve also mentioned at a few WordCamps that a polling plugin is one of the top 10 WordPress plugins in the world. Polls are really popular with WordPress users.

As we started to look at building out our own service for this, it became more obvious that, while on the surface it’s a very simple problem, there’s a lot of hidden complexity and opportunities for some really powerful features under the hood. There are probably a dozen companies addressing this space right now, but as we started to survey the space I was struck by how often I’d see this “PollDaddy” thing pop up.

Two guys in Ireland with a quirky company name were cleaning up with some of the largest and most respected websites using their service on a daily basis. They weren’t the biggest, but they had the high end of the market. It seemed to be the WordPress of the polling space.

I took a secret trip to Sligo and put back a few pints with the team and we decided to make things work. They went to bed every night and woke up every morning thinking about polls and surveys, and were iterating at a great pace. By plugging into Automattic’s experience at creating internet-scale services and the distribution of WordPress.com, I knew we could take Polldaddy to an entirely new level in a relatively short amount of time.

Today we just enabled PollDaddy integration with 4.4 million blogs on WordPress.com and have released the first version of their .org plugin.

You can read more about the acquisition on the PollDaddy blog, Toni’s blog, and the WP.com blog. I’m super excited to have Lenny and Eoin as part of the Automattic family, and I’m looking forward to seeing the service flourish with its newfound resources.

Categories
Automattic

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, WordPress.com, 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 WordPress.com. 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. WordPress.com 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.

Categories
Automattic

Act Two

You’ve probably seen the news on GigaOM, Automattic has raised a new “series B” round of funding. We’re entering what I consider Act II of the Automattic story. I’ll talk about where we’re going, but first some history.

In 2005 Automattic was small. Through some miracle I had convinced Donncha O Caoimh, Andy Skelton, and Ryan Boren to leave their safe jobs, join a company with almost no money in the bank run by someone with no experience, and whose core idea was to give away and open source all our core IP. There were more questions than answers. Would a hosted version of WordPress move beyond the geek appeal the OS project had? How would the virtual company with no office work? Could we develop a service alongside an OS project without screwing both of them up? Should I raise money? Most importantly, would it scale?

In 2006 we developed a series of answers (sometimes hard-learned) to those questions. WordPress was obviously limited by its installation requirements — when it was added as a one-click to web hosts and when WordPress.com (and other MU hosts) made it simple to get a blog the popularity grew beyond what I could have ever imagined. In the WordPress.org world it wasn’t perfect — I consider the long period between versions 2.0 and 2.1 a personal failure — but after that initial bump the development really picked up and the community and usage exploded. There have been 5,880,790 downloads of WordPress.org since Automattic started. (3,852,554 in the past year alone.)

We ended up raising a small amount of money (1.1 million) to allow the company to take some risks without worrying about payroll but we ended up using very little of that capital because revenues grew quickly, allowing us to remain break-even even as the team scaled to 18 full-time folks and a number of contractors. Toni Schneider left Yahoo to join as CEO, a partner I couldn’t imagine getting along better with, and we started to look like a real company despite having no office and some of us never meeting in person.

Fast forward to 2007: many of the seeds planted started to really bloom. On WordPress.com 1.8 million new users joined, they created 25 million posts, we served 3.2 billion dynamic pageviews, and grew to reach over 100 million unique users worldwide. Akismet blocked billions of spams from reaching blogs. Nearly every major media organization, from the NY Times, WSJ, CNN, Fox, Time, People, and more, have embraced WordPress. Finally the approach of serious acquisition or majority-stake investments brought up the biggest question we’d faced so far: should we sell, or build out Automattic to be an independent company for many years to come.

That decision actually wasn’t hard. I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunities and it became clear that the road ahead was much longer than the road behind us.

That brings us to today. The New York Times, the flagship of media, is joining our existing investors Polaris, True, and Radar in expanding their minority stake in the company. Automattic is now positioned to execute on our vision of a better web not just in blogging, but expanding our investment in anti-spam, identity, wikis, forums, and more — small, open source pieces, loosely joined with the same approach and philosophy that has brought us this far.

See also: GigaOM, Toni Schneider, New York Times, Techcrunch, Wall Street Journal, Mark Jaquith, Jackie Danicki, Mark Evans, Mathew Ingram, Michael Bazeley, Venturebeat, Lloyd Budd, Raanan Bar-Cohen, bu.blicio.us, VC Mike.

P.S. I’ve moved to a new domain, ma.tt, but more on that later. You can subscribe to my feed here.

Categories
Asides Automattic

Raanan Joins

Raanan Bar-Cohen is joining Automattic from Dow Jones. He’s got a disclaimer in his sidebar, “This site is not maintained utilizing the author’s employer’s resources or on company time.” Little does he know that blogging on company time is a requirement here. πŸ™‚

Categories
Asides Automattic

Apokalyptik

Demitrious has joined Automattic. Now go guilt him into blogging more. πŸ™‚

Categories
Asides Automattic

Automattic is Hiring

Automattic is now accepting applications for two positions, one development and the other systems. For me it’s a dream job because I get to work with the smartest group of people I’ve ever met. Who knows — it might be a good fit for a photomatt.net reader.

Categories
Asides Automattic

To Mexico

Tomorrow, along with the rest of Automattic, I am heading down to La Paz, Mexico for the twice yearly gathering of the company. The virtual company thing is great, but I still think it’s important to get everyone together a few times a year to connect and plan out the next 6-12 months.

Categories
Asides Automattic

DoubleMattic

Now with Twice the β€œMattic” – Matt Thomas joins Automattic full-time. We’re still figuring out what to call him, since “Matt” is obviously taken. πŸ˜‰

Categories
Asides Automattic

Toni Interview Video

A nice video interview with Toni, the CEO of Automattic.

Categories
Asides Automattic wordpress.com

WordPress.com VIP

The WordPress.com VIP program is now public.

Categories
Asides Automattic

Lloydomattic

Feeling Automattic. Lloyd Budd, of Flock/Mozilla fame, has joined Automattic full-time. πŸ™‚

Categories
Asides Automattic

Automattic Adams

Mike Adams (mdawaffe) has joined the Automattic team. πŸ™‚

Categories
Asides Automattic

Bryan Veloso

Bryan Veloso is joining the team at Automattic. πŸ™‚

Categories
Automattic

Paid Support

We just launched the Automattic Support Network which is a place for companies to purchase paid support for WordPress and MU. Originally I didn't think we'd need to do this, simply because the WordPress.org support forums are so amazing and there is such a good community around it. That hasn't changed, but some big companies and enterprise folks are uncomfortable with volunteer support, and want (and insist) on paying someone before deploying a product. Based on that feedback and a lot of input from Podz, we put together this new product, which is basically VIP support with a guaranteed response time. Toni has some more thoughts here. We also rolled out new pricing for commercial Akismet use a few days ago, and the response has been great so far.