Category Archives: wordpress.com

Tumblr Support in WordPress

Earlier today WordPress.com turned on the ability to push new blog posts to Tumblr, alongside the existing capability to do so for Twitter, Facebook, et al. This is interesting for a few reasons.

While the tech press often likes to paint companies in a similar market as competing in a zero sum game, the reality is that all are growing rapidly and services feed each other and cross-pollinate more than anyone gives them credit for. Tumblr built a dashboard reader product that has tons of pageviews and lots of followers, which can provide distribution for blogs much in the same way Facebook and Twitter do. (Its 85%-on-dashboard-centric usage looks more like a social network than a blogging network, actually.) WordPress has fantastic content that people on Tumblr love, and Tumblr has a rich and diverse content and curation community that can drive new visitors to WordPress — it’s like peanut butter and chocolate.

It’s true that we’re becoming simpler and more streamlined and it’s a process driven by our design vision and our community, not what any particular competitor is doing. WordPress has always flourished because it’s a hassle-free digital hub — a home on the web you can control, customize, and truly own due to the fact that it’s Open Source software. WordPress is the antidote to walled gardens.

WP.com Marketplace Idea

At WordCamp Argentina yesterday I talked about an upcoming feature for WordPress.com, a theme marketplace, and while the feedback has been universally positive amoung everyone I talked to some folks who weren’t there and don’t speak Spanish seem to be criticizing third-hand, Google-translated information, which is a little sad to watch, so here’s some details. 🙂

Right now WordPress.com is a little bit like a clothing store with only XXL men’s pink ponchos available — not a lot of selection. We’d like to offer more products, hence the idea of a theme marketplace.

Imagine you’re a theme designer and if you do a custom one-off theme for a site like this you may get $500. (Keeping the numbers simple for the sake of argument.) Making a good theme is really hard, and you may only be able to do one a week. Now imagine you made a theme and uploaded it to our theme marketplace, then set a price of $50. You’re now an option on the dashboard of 1,736,206 blogs, if we split the price evenly and 20 of those 1,736,206 blogs purchase the theme, you just made as much as you would doing a one-off design. You can plug in different numbers and assumptions there and it’s pretty easy to see how this could be big for designers.

There are some obvious things that need to be in place, and probably a few we haven’t thought of yet. There need to be some theme guidelines (and good taste) enforced, an easy, safe interface for uploading and updating of themes, a system for previewing a theme live on your blog. Beyond the obvious guidelines of browser compatibility and general not-sucking, we’ll require submissions be original, link-free, not published before, and GPL-licensed. (That also means that all themes in the marketplace will be available FREE to wordpress.org users. That may force some to switch from .com to .org, but that’s fine. :)) Will .com users want to buy premium themes? I think so, but the only people really taking that risk are launch partners, and worst-case scenario you’ve got a cool WP theme on your hands. (By the way if you have an amazing theme and you want to be in this program at launch, which should give it a nice boost, drop me an email m@mullenweg.com with “killer theme” in the subject.)

At the end of the day, it’s just a market. I’m sure styles, pricing strategies, and more will develop over time.

S3 News

Three bits of Amazon S3 news:

  1. We’re now using S3 as the primary storage for WordPress.com, rather than just for backups. We have some layers in front of it, notably Varnish, so the majority of our serving doesn’t hit S3. Still, our AWS bill went from around $200/mo to $1500/mo, and rising. It has simplified some of our requirements, but doesn’t look like it’ll save any money.
  2. Amazon now has a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Big companies like this, but in the real world I’ve found there to be a low correlation with service reliability and the presence of a SLA.
  3. In the Amazon newsletter they promoted Content Spooling Network as a good use of their services. Unfortunately, the service appears to be tailored for using Mechanical Turk to “ghostwrite keyword-based articles for SEO,” or more succinctly, “spam.” Get a web-savvy editor for that newsletter, guys!

WordPress.com Growth

Even though we post a wrap-up post each month, I don’t think the story of the growth of WordPress.com is very well-known. As Narendra Rocherolle said to me a few weeks ago, “Pound for pound you guys get less press per pageview.” Webware just publish some Nielson numbers that show WordPress.com as the #4 blog site in July, after Blogger, TMZ, and Typepad. Number four isn’t that hot,but the year over year growth was 398% which is 7-10x more than those above us. Of course Nielson/Netratings doesn’t match anyone’s internal numbers, though people generally assume they’re precise relative to each other.

But what about something more accurate? I’ve been a supporter of Quantcast since they launched and we run their code on all our blogs. It provides some interesting stats like demographics that we wouldn’t have on our own. (I also like that it’s fast and has never caused us problems, better than even Google Analytics.) Their numbers place us fairly well, #29 in the US with 16 million uniques. However there’s more…

Apparently the Quantcast numbers are just for blogs on a wordpress.com subdomain, none of our custom domain traffic is counted. They’re experimenting with a new feature called “networks” that aggregates the traffic for WordPress.com-hosted blog even with their own domains. Those numbers place us at 25 million US uniques and 70 million global a month, with a bit over 300 million monthly pageviews. We don’t track uniques, but their pageviews mirror our own closely so I feel this data is pretty accurate. 25 million US uniques would put us at #19 right next to Facebook.

The growth and reach isn’t a credit to us, it’s to our bloggers, but I am happy we’ve created a platform where some of the most creative bloggers can express themselves and attract a meaningful audience. Imagine what those numbers would look like if they included WordPress.org blogs.

This is a long way of saying happy 2nd birthday, WordPress.com. Thanks for the incredible ride over the last year.

Our Tail

Someone had asked me about traffic patterns on WordPress.com the other day and whether or not they followed a "long tail." I knew the answer was yes, and I guestimated the numbers from memory at around 80% outside the top 10 blogs. It's actually a little more acute: 92.63% of the traffic to WordPress.com is for blogs outside of the top 25. (About 8.4 million pageviews in the past week.) This is from Google Analytics, so doesn't include RSS or anything like that.

A Little Funding

The best thing that can ever happen to a web service is to have passionate users. Users that notice and email you the second there’s a database problem, users that really push the limits of what you can provide, and users that are phenomally successful and bring thousands of others to your doors.

As a service provider, you have a strong responsibility to these folks. They’re putting their life online with you, they deserve nothing less than 100% uptime. They tell all their friends to try you out, they deserve for the experience of the hundred thousandth user to be as great as the tenth. WordPress.com is serving 4.2 million hits a day on a handful of boxes. Akismet has gotten to the point where it’s blocking so many spams every second that any fraction of downtime is very noticable to users. (Like we had this morning.)

At Automattic we’ve always taken this very seriously, and from the bootstrap beginning I planned for it to be sustainable and frugal in the long term. Of course since I moved to San Francisco I’ve talked to dozens of really high-quality investors who were interested in what we were doing, but the bubble model of giant valuations and ultra-rapid growth never really appealed to me.

The growth of WordPress.com and Akismet has outpaced anyone’s expectations. Recently, I made the decision to sell a minority stake in the company to a few select partners who I think are going to bring a lot of value to the business far beyond mere dollars. This isn’t going to change how the business is run, or the people involved with it, but it will allow us to take better advantage of the opportunities before us and also for us to keep our promise to every one of you to maintain a fast, stable, and innovative platform in the long term.

Automattic isn’t going to get fancy SoMA offices, throw huge parties at SxSW, or “get big fast.” We took a small amount of capital to put things that were already growing fast in a stable position, so from month to month you’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul. We’re going to use the money to pre-emptively address scaling issues before they happen, and continue to share everything we can back to the community, like all of the code behind WP.com in WordPress MU, the spellchecking feature we sponsored, free Akismet for 99.9% of users, and a few other goodies we still have up our sleeve. In terms of hiring, we’re still going to grow very deliberately in line with our revenues and focus on the very best and brightest (and BBQ-loving), like Podz.

We’re going to publish more technical details about everything later, and this is already longer than I hoped — I’m sure you folks have some questions. I’m going to do something a little different and turn the comment section here into a FAQ. If you have a question, please post it below. If you want to say “congrats!” or “that sucks!” do it on this entry instead to keep the question and answer flow clean. If a question warrants a long enough answer I might turn it into a separate blog post.

Open Source Legal Docs

Not technically open source, because I don't know which license is best for regular text, but I just put a Creative Commons Sharealike license on the WordPress.com terms of service and Automattic privacy policy. People were stealing them anyway, might as well make it legit. 🙂 Feel free to grab bits and pieces and search/replace your company/project in. If you want to throw us a link as a thank you, I'd be flattered.

Widgets

WordPress Widgets, we just enabled editable sidebars and some bootstrap widgets on WordPress.com. Plugin for WordPress, API, and a few more widgets are on their way. Right now widgets are just for sidebars, but I see no reason the concept couldn’t be adapted for the Dashboard as well. It’s ultra-simple, if you know HTML you can make a widget.

In San Diego

I’m heading down to San Diego / La Jolla for the day to install some load balancers for WordPress.com and also to buy “Mr Fancy CTO” Jason a celebratory taco for their Joyent thing. If you’re in the area drop me a note. Update: La Jolla is beautiful, but servers happen. Trying to do things over a serial console is so 1988. (As Jason said.)

WP.com in Red Herring

Just landed in Houston, it’s chilly here. The opening up of WordPress.com got a nice write-up in Red Herring earlier today. Just to clarify two things from the article quickly: I’m working on WP.com with Andy, Donncha, and Ryan and I do think our distributed database architecture (which I’ll write more about later, it’s nothing too fancy) will help us scale cheaply but I’m also a strong believer in big things from small teams, much in the spirit of 37signals.