TalkPress From Automattic

Matt Mullenweg just talked with Houston Chronicle’s Dwight Silverman. I learned one little thing and one bigger thing from Dwight’s post about the conversation.

The little thing is that the name WordPress is due to Christine Tremoulet, who blogs at Big Pink Cookie.

The big thing is that Automattic will build BBPress, which currently powers the various WordPress forums, into a product called TalkPress. I think it’s safe to assume that TalkPress, like BBPress, will be free/open source software.

I note that Matt has registered, but that there is no server there yet. There is a server at I assume that the .org site will house the software, and the .com site will host TalkPress forums (i.e. that the .org and .com sites for TalkPress will correspond to those for WordPress).

Portadentity: All Right Then, Data Portability

Your portadentity is your identity, portable across web services. You probably haven’t heard the term before, because it just occurred to me, and Googling it yields no hits. The concept may well be familiar, since it has received a lot of coverage in the last month or so. A recent example comes from yesterday’s Financial Times.

It is a frustrating fact of modern internet life. Users of websites such as Facebook and Google spend hours building up and maintaining friend lists and e-mail address books, but when it comes time to move such social information to another online service they frequently find it impossible to get their data back out. Instead, they must start re-entering their personal details from scratch.

Another statement of the problem is the Smashcut video. It provides part of an argument for “data portability.” I don’t find that term very useful, but suspect that we are stuck with it, and regard it as a price worth paying for the achievements of the Data Portability Working Group (DPW).

At the heart of data portability is your identity. The DPW, consistent with its policy of using existing standards, uses OpenID for digital identity. Your OpenID, together with the data attached to it, is what I’d call your portadentity.

Today’s big news about the DPW is that Microsoft has joined. Read/Write Marshall reacts as follows. Microsoft’s joining the group is an event of sufficiently complex historical meaning that I’m hesitant to try and interpret it here. I won’t try to interpret it either.

I’m more inclined to spend my interpreting energies on Matt’s statement yesterday about Automattic’s vision of a better web not just in blogging, but expanding our investment in anti-spam, identity, wikis, forums, and more. I added the emphasis on identity.

Here’s what I hope Automattic will do about portadentity… all right, data portability.

  • Appoint someone to the DPW.
  • Make a consumer of OpenIDs. It’s currently a producer only.
  • Make it clear where Gravatars might fit in to all this.

Automattic Cash: $29.5M

Matt reports that Automattic has raised $29.5M, and indicates that the money isn’t just for WordPress.

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.

News about this funding started to come out a couple of months ago. It’s not clear to me how much of the money will go to the founders.

Other coverage includes:

  • The NY Times, which is one of the investors in this new round.
  • CEO Toni: “we are also entering a partnership with the Times to expand their existing WordPress blogging infrastructure and to create new ways of connecting WordPress bloggers with the New York Times and its readers.”
  • Om Malik, in what I think is his longest post since his recent “little medical episode.”, TypePad, Storage, and More

On, everyone’s free upload space has been increased 60x from 50mb to 3,000mb. Matt followed up the news with some competitor comparisons.

To get the same amount of space at our nearest competitor, Typepad, you’d pay at least $300 a year. Blogger only gives you 1GB. We’re doing the same thing for free.

I thought of following up on the comparison with TypePad, then forgot about it. Then I saw that Justin interprets Matt’s announcement as “FU” to Typepad and decided to do the comparison after all.

The table shows that the comparison is a tricky one, in that and TypePad are packaged differently. Automattic offers free, ad-supported, hosted blogging at, and offers a few specific paid upgrades. Six Apart offers paid, ad-free blogging at in the form of different packages: Basic and Plus are the “smallest.” upgrades TypePad Basic TypePad Plus
Price (year) Free $50 $90
Storage 3 GB (= 3000 MB) + $20 for + 5 GB,… 100 MB 500 MB
Can store JPG, GIF Yes Yes Yes
Can store MP3, video No With storage upgrade Yes Yes
Bandwidth Unlimited 2 GB/month 5 GB/month
Domain mapping No + $10 No Yes
Ads Yes, by/for Automattic Ad-related upgrade in the works Yes, by/for you if you want Yes, by/for you if you want
Templates/themes Yes Yes Yes
Drag and drop to customize layouts Using sidebar widgets (only within sidebar) No Yes
Customize CSS No + $15 No No

The mapping between features of WordPress and of TypePad isn’t always a neat one. This is borne out in particular by the last rows of the table, and by the notes they prompt me to add. Custom CSS for TypePad requires the Pro package, which costs $150/year. But TypePad plus offers some customization options not available at, even with the CSS upgrade.

The difference is sufficient to prompt the cliche of “comparing apples and oranges.” It might be interesting to expand the comparison to include pears and kiwi fruit: that is, Blogger and Vox. In fact, Matt made the comparison with Blogger’s storage allowance in the above quote. Vox is the most recently-introduced of Six Apart’s blogging services.

For a comparison between Automattic and Six Apart, see my guest post at Read/Write Web. But note that Six Apart has since sold LiveJournal.

WordPress Gets Crunchy, So Does Toni

It’s award season, and, for some of the blogs I follow, that means first annual Crunchies. The Overall award went to Facebook. Facebook received another award, in that Mark Zuckerberg was Best startup founder.

One other organization received two awards. Automattic was Most likely to succeed, and Toni Schneider was Best Startup CEO.

The other award on which I’ll remark is the one to Hulu for Best video startup. As a product of big old media, many of us were surprised to find we liked it.

I didn’t vote, by the way. I’m taking the current voting season off. I’m mildly surprised to find myself blogging about these awards.

Acquia: Drupalmattic?

Acquia is a startup that will provide complements to Drupal. Drupal, in turn, is a content management platform supporting a variety of web sites from personal blogs on up. Drupal is free/open source software, released under the GPL.

One of the questions in the Acquia FAQ is: “Are there other open source companies that Acquia is modeled after?” Part of the answer provided is that: “Just like Red Hat, Acquia’s business model is based on an existing open source project with a broad base of existing GPL’d open source code.”

Acquia strikes me as rather similar to Automattic. Drupal, like WordPress, is a GPL’d platform on which blogs and other “social web” sites can be built. The lead developer of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, will be the CTO of Acquia; Matt Mullenweg is in effect CTO is Automattic. Each firm has an experienced CEO who sold his previous firm.

Of course, there are also many differences between Acquia and Automattic. Acquia has started with rather more venture capital: $7 million, as opposed to the million or so with which Automattic got under way.

If the name Acquia makes you think of a series of map-in-front fantasy novels (The Annals of Acquia?), then check out Mark Hopkins’ post at Mashable. “Only a few days ago did Dries Buytaert,” he starts, and goes on to remark that Drupal “has grown to no small respectability.”

Ads on Intrusive or Elusive?

Pascal van Hecke recently used as a case study in making money with AdSense without annoying your users. I found his post via that girl again, a user annoyed by, among other things, the way it uses AdSense.

Pascal’s post is mainly about “the hoops you have to jump through, in order to enjoy the privilege of being served ads on” He identifies many such hoops; I have no reason to suppose that he does so inaccurately. Despite the hoops, I still feel that my purchase of the CSS upgrade should entitle me to an ad-free blog.

Automattic Cash

Michael Arrington has heard that Automattic has been offered a new round of financing. Most of it will go to the founders. Most of how much? Up to $50M. Michael doesn’t identify sources for this story, just as he didn’t for the earlier story that Automattic rejected a $200M buyout.

Actually, I’m less curious about sources than I am about founders. Who are the founders of Automattic? Matt, of course. I was fairly sure that Toni was not a founder, since Automattic already existed when he joined. A look through Toni’s archives shows that I was right, and that Andy, Donncha and Ryan were the other founders.

Meet the new financers, same as the old financers… the (up to) $50M comes from the same people who provided the first round of funding for Automattic. So the lead investor is Polaris, in the person of Mike Hirshland. He blogs as VC Mike at where, in April last year, he explained why Polaris invested in Automattic in the first place.

If the Arringtonian conjecture is correct – and I’d be surprised if it’s completely off the mark – congratulations to all concerned.

Attributor and (Non-)Attribution

If you put content on the web, it is very likely that your content will be copied and used on other sites. That’s The Force of the Web and, like The Force in Star Wars, it has both a light side and a dark side. Much of the difference between the two sides is due to attribution, or the lack of it. I’ll quote to illustrate the light side, being even more careful than usual to provide attribution. Here are the wise words of Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch.

Links are the currency of the Web. They are the way attributions are made. In most cases, media companies would be better off if they could just get everyone who is copying their stuff to link back to them than by trying to extract licensing fees out of them or suing them. There is a lot less friction in asking for a link, and it doesn’t cost anything to give one out. Yet all of those links can turn into traffic, both directly and by imbuing the original source with higher search karma (i.e. a higher ranking on search engines).

Then there’s the dark side, manifested in sites that take content and republish it without linking or other attribution, but with ads. (Erick provides examples.)

logoWho will fight the dark side? You? A noble Jedi knight? A mercenary? In the latter category we find Attributor, a startup that crawls the web, looking for copies of its clients’ content.

Attributor already has AP and Reuters as clients. Its fees to such enterprise clients may run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A limited version for humble bloggers such as me (and you?) is planned for next year, at a monthly cost of “as little as $6 or $7 a month.”

At the risk of being self-serving, it would make more sense to make the humble blogger version free. Why should we get free mini-Attributor? There are many reasons. One is that we’re used to the existence of a free version of pretty much anything on the web.

The closest comparison with which I’m familiar is Akismet: Akismet fights spam comments, Attributor fights spam blogs (splogs). I’ll make just one other comparison: Flickr. Like many bloggers, I use Flickr, started doing so in part because it was free, but now happily pay for the pro version.

But perhaps the best argument to Attributor for a free version is based on attribution itself. I am sure I’m not alone in saying that, if there was a free version, I would very likely use it on my blog, post about the fact that copies of my content are being tracked, and provide attribution to the folks who were doing the tracking. (Were I a sidebar-stuffer, I’d put its logo, with link, in my sidebar, but I’m not.)

It strikes me (on less than an hour’s consideration, I admit) that Attributor and Automattic might work very well together. Automattic’s products include, not only Akismet, but also, to which something like Attributor would be a very welcome addition.

Automattic Gets Gravatar – and Valuation

Matt Mullenweg posted yesterday on the Gravatar blog about the acquisition of Gravatar by Automattic. The post isn’t there now. It wasn’t just my imagination: Om Malik linked to the post. Update: Matt’s post is back.

Here’s what I remember Matt saying: Gravatar is great; it is, or might be, having trouble scaling; Automattic is really good at scaling; so Automattic acquired Gravatar; the Gravatar code has been moved to Automattic’s servers.

There are posts on the acquisition at: Matt’s blog; the blog; Read/Write Web; Mashable.

The last of these is less about the acquisition, and more about the rumor that Automattic is valued in the $150 million to $300 million range. The same rumor/post has it that Automattic has suitors, and that its investors would like to see it say yes to one of them.