Tag Archives: wordpress.com

I’m really excited about the launch of WordPress.com Connect. Yes Facebook et al offer similar APIs and have more users, but there are two key differences. First is Automattic is not an advertising-driven company, so our priorities around users are different than ones who are. Second is that these APIs are the basis for interacting with any element of an entire website hosted on WP.com or not, meaning themes, widgets, posts, content, CSS… any company that does something that ultimately ends up on a website should be looking at the APIs on developer.wordpress.com and pushing us where there isn’t one yet.

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.

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.

Crunchies Win

The Crunchies were tonight, and we were fortunate enough to win in two categories, WordPress for Most Likely to Succeed and Toni Schneider for a well-deserved Best Startup CEO. My heart was racing a thousand beats a minute going up to the stage, which never happens anymore, but I think because there were so many people I knew, and so many startups that I liked there, that it was different. Congratulations to the entire WordPress community for this win. Just wait until they see 2.5. 🙂 Update: If you want to see the shortest company introduction ever and me dork out on stage, check out this video and seek to 33:40.

Macworld Liveblogging

Rating the Livebloggers talks about three of the blogs that were covering Steve Jobs keynote where he announced the Macbook Air. The one with the highest rating, Gizmodo’s Live site, is hosted on WordPress.com as a VIP, which is how they managed to avoid the problems that hit Crunchgear, Engadget, Twitter, et al. Here’s a Flickr picture showing how spiky the traffic can be. (That’s from the iPhone keynote, not the latest one.)

Marketplace Followup

Alex Jones has some good thoughts on the marketplace. As some stats, our themes page on .com got 2.4 million pageviews last month and someone previews a theme about once every 1.74 seconds. I can’t say how many people have purchased upgrades on .com, but even with our limited selection of products it’s a meaningful percentage, and that’s one of the reasons we think this idea has legs. It’s still impossible to know for certain, though, and I appreciate that our launch partners are taking a risk that they might create a theme and not sell a single one, and the whole thing might tank. If it goes well, though, I fully expect there to be thousands of themes in the system by this time next year, and the people in early will have a significant advantage, much like app developers did on Facebook.

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 Rising

WordPress.com is now the number #22 site in the US according to Quantcast, just ahead of craigslist.org. Moving up from there is going to be a lot harder as the US uniques get pretty big. Note that the numbers Quantcast uses for its top-list only includes blogs with “wordpress.com” in the URL. To see our aggregate stats which includes blogs with custom domains you have to look at the WordPress network page, which has us at 87 million global uniques in the past 30 days, up from 70 million just over a month ago.

Turkey Update

The folks responsible for blocking WordPress.com in Turkey have issued a press release, here’s some snippets.

As it is known by public, the entry of the publications to Turkey of the blog service named “woldpress.com” that gives the opportunity of opening free site to internet users is interrupted with the judgement. This judgement is applied on 17.8.2007 and thus the entery of worldpress.com service and the publications of all sub-sites which takes service from this service to Turkey is interrupted.

aI wish they had blocked worldpress.com instead. They seem proud that they blocked all the sites instead of just the ones that they consider illegal under Turkish law.

The reason of this suspention, is that the limitlessly enable to illegal publications of the mentioned blog service, not taking to notice about the suspention of the applications and ignoring the judgements that are given by the Turkish courts related to the suspention of known sub-sites. The free and uncontrolled opportunities provided by the mentioned service are directed baleful people to this service and in a short time wordpress.com is returned to the voice and publication center of separatist-disastrous ideologies, private hostilities, illegal targets.

As far as I know, we never received any notice from Turkish courts about anything, only barely coherent threats and bully-attempts written much like the above.

Thus before ABOUT 17 TÄ°MES we have appealed to the mentioned site administration for the suspention of the unlawful publications , but the site administration did not take any caution about these publications.(one of our applications is published in their sites) Thereon about our applications RELATED WITH THE SUB SITES THAT ABUSE OUR CLIENT’S PERSONAL RIGHTS the Turkish courts have given numerous judgements for the closing of the illegal sub-sites which are broadcasting under WordPress. These judgements are delivered to the center of the mentioned firm in USA and to the agency in Turkey, this time the suspention of the illegal publications according to the judgements of the Turkish courts is asked. BUT, IN SPITE OF THE ALL WRITTEN AND ORAL APPLICATIONS, THE MENTIONED FIRM AND ITS AGENCIES ARE NOT AFFILIATE OUR REQUIREMENTS AND THE JUDGEMENTS OF THE TURKISH COURTS AND THEY INSISTED ON APPLYING.

Just to clarify when they said they contacted us 17 times, that means that they would blast the same email to multiple address and when they didn’t get the reply they wanted they sent the same message over and over again.

In addition to some blogs they complained about, their main request was that we block the name of their client being used by any blog hosted by our site, much like you can’t write “democracy” on blogs hosted by MSN Spaces in China. I’m going to skip some bits to the threat at the end:

There is a lesson which all blog services and internet service providers should take from this judgement. Blog services, especially the ones that give free service, should be careful about the sites that are illegally active through their firms. These services should not remain insensitive to the complints that they receive and especially to the judgements. It is certain that the services which behave opppositely will meet with the same enforcement that WordPress met.

So if you don’t disallow certain words being used on your blogs, you’ll be punitively punished through our state-controlled ISP. Today those words are “Adnan Oktar.” Who knows what they’ll be tomorrow.

Blocked in Turkey

People trying to visit WordPress.com from Turkey are seeing this message: “Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instance.” I didn’t realize Turkey had a great firewall like China. This is really unfortunate because we have a really passionate Turkish community that gets about 12 million pageviews a month. Any good tips for people to get around the block? Update: This comment has the story and resolution. We’re back Update 2: It appears we’re still blocked, here is more info.

Guardian on Splogs

The Guardian: Why Google is the service of choice for sploggers examines spam, splogs, Blogger, and WordPress.com. As you may tell from the title, it’s overly harsh on Google, but nonetheless has some interesting commentary and information. Like I said last time someone wrote about this, I would never suggest WP.com is splog-free because I delete too many of them myself, but it is a problem we take very seriously and are ever vigilant against.