Fred Wilson puts the difference at $14.8B – if we take “the publicly available information about the most recent financings of the two companies ($15bn for Facebook and $200mm for Automattic)” to provide good measures of the respective company’s values. But Fred isn’t any more impressed with that measurement that I am.
I think that some aspects of Fred’s post could use clarification. I’ll continue the job of clarification started in a comment by Jeff Jarvis. I’ll also plug some of my own writing about WordPress.
After quoting the funny money numbers, Fred moves on to a chart of unique visitors to Facebook and to “WordPress.” Jeff’s clarification is that the WordPress line in that chart almost certainly refers to the site WordPress.com, and that many WordPress blogs are hosted elsewhere. Jeff also remarks that WordPress is a platform, not a social network.
We need to be clear about three different but related entities.
- WordPress is free/open source software. It can be downloaded from WordPress.org.
- Automattic is the privately-held firm founded by Matt Mullenweg, the lead developer of WordPress.
- WordPress.com is a host for WordPress blogs. It is owned by Automattic; it is not the firm’s only project.
Comparing unique visitors at Facebook.com and at WordPress.com is comparing an apple with an orange. Automattic has other oranges in its bag, and hence has other revenue streams. If we want to compare the $ values of Facebook and Automattic, we should look at all the oranges in Automattic’s bag, and not just at WordPress.com.
Having noted the clarification in Jeff’s comment, I’d like to follow up on another statement from the same comment: “WordPress is not a network. WordPress is a platform.” That’s mostly true, but it ignores a couple of important points.
First, WordPress has several of the ingredients of a social network. Consider, for example, Diso: “an umbrella project for a group of open source implementations of… social networking concepts… first target is WordPress, bootstrapping on existing work and building out from there.” I’ve added emphasis to show that Chris Messina and his buddies consider WordPress a good starting point for an open, standards-based social network.
Second, WordPress.com has several network-like features. Once signed on to WordPress.com, you can leave comments on other blogs hosted there (including this one) without having to provide further identity. There are WordPress.com-wide tag and category pages; as an example, here’s the page for the tag automattic.
One of the things that makes Automattic interesting is that it’s in the business of making money from free software. If you share my interest in this aspect of Automattic, you might want to check out my series of posts on it. It starts with this introduction. The most successful post in the series (indeed, on this blog) is the one on making money from WordPress.com.
I don’t attempt to put a $ value on Automattic. I am convinced that its $ value does not lag that of Facebook by many billions of dollars. I think that Fred Wilson shares my conviction. I wonder if he attempted to get his VC firm, Union Square Ventures, a piece of the Automattic action. Earlier this year, Automattic got a $29.5M round of funding.