Automattic Making Money: Contents and Conclusions

This post concludes my series on Automattic making money. The best structure for the post seems to be the time-honoured, time-based structure: past, present, and future.

I’ll start with a list of the past posts in this series.

Now, on to Automattic’s past. In some ways, there isn’t much of it, since the firm was founded in December 2005, and is often described as a startup. But there is more history than that might suggest. WordPress is the successor to b2/cafelog, which goes back to June 2001. One of the reasons this is important is that WordPress inherited from b2 its use of the GPL, and hence has always been free/open source software.

WordPress 1.0 was released in 2004. That same year, Yahoo acquired Toni Schneider’s startup, Oddpost, and so Toni joined Yahoo. While there, he founded the Yahoo developer network which allows third party software developers to use Yahoo as a platform for creating Yahoo-powered applications and services.

As CEO of Automattic, Toni has cultivated what might be termed the WordPress developer network, but is referred to as the WordPress ecosystem by shameless buzzword-slingers. This ecosystem includes WordPress consultants, theme developers, and plugin developers.

My main comment on the present is that things are changing fast. I’ll give an example of change for each of the following: WordPress.com, WordPress, and Akismet. Sonific is one of the means by which you can include music in a WordPress.com post. That will cease to be true on May 1, when Sonific is going offline.

WordPress 2.5 was released about a month ago. Its emphasis is on usability, but not everyone considers it an improvement. When WordPress.com moved to the 2.5 code base, there were complaints about the new admin interface, and about the suddenness of the change. Bloggers using WordPress (as opposed to .com) of course have more control over their blogs, including control over when to move to the new interface.

As a third and final example of recent change, consider Mollom. It’s a new competitor for Akismet, and will probably be a strong one.

If you read this far in the hope of finding bold predictions about Automattic’s future, you’re out of luck. If such predictions ever do come from me, they will probably get their own post. The best hint about the future, and hence the best closing sentence for this post and for the series, is one that Matt wrote after Automattic raised a second round of funding ($29.5M) earlier this year.

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.

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