when the acquisition comes

I’ve been told I have to make a post on Gravatar. So, yeah.

I would be surprised if this purchase actually cost Automattic that much. I think Mark’s post says more than he intended it to:

I liked the idea of gravatars when they came out […] but then for some reason it sort of dropped off the planet for me. No idea why.

That would probably be because it was a fad, like blogshares and blogrings and those little 80×15 buttons. It might have held on to more of its original popularity if it’d had the resources it needed, and it might now get a shot in the arm because Automattic has given it the resources and an army of fanboys willing to give it another chance, but this was a site that had been in decline for a while. If the concept was that great somebody else would have picked it up and run with it by now. It’s nice that wordpress.com users may now be able to use their avatars outside the walled garden, and it’s nice that people outside .com may not have to be represented by little grey men anymore, but that’s about as far as it goes.

(OK, so there’s the ‘wordpress.com becomes major OpenID provider thus hijacking Six Apart’s baby’ angle, but that sort of bores me so I’ll let somebody else pick up on that.)

I’m more interested in the sudden flood of ‘ooh, Automattic must be worth something!’ speculation this has prompted. (Spending money makes you a far better proposition than merely making it, I suppose.) The most compelling of these for me is Should Yahoo buy WordPress?, since I’ve privately thought for a good while now that acquisition by Yahoo! is the ultimate goal. Partly because Automattic’s CEO has already sold one company to them, but also because… well, they’d be wanting a Blogger, and wordpress.com is by some distance the most obvious candidate. I was just waiting for somebody else to say it first, to stave off references to tinfoil.

(Please be aware that any comments denying that Automattic is for sale will be exhumed and mocked mercilessly when the Acquisition comes.)

20 Comments »

  1. Robin said

    I highly doubt Yahoo! would buy WordPress. WordPress.com, maybe, to replace their 360 service (much like Flickr and the original now-defunct Y! Photos), but acquiring WP on their part (the software) would make no sense. Y! is a web service company, and WP is a self-hosted software.

    In short, buying Automattic as a whole doesn’t make sense for Yahoo!. If they bought WP.com only, that would make sense.

  2. drmiketemp said

    What did blogger/Pyra Labs go for when Google bought it? I can’t find a figure right off. (Just found a copy of the offical press release. They didn’t say.)

    There’s some serious money when it comes to hosting and the like. I’ve had a couple of serious offers over the years for my setup and clients. I can’t give figures due to legal reasons if I ever do sell. $300 million does seem high to me. Feedburner only went for $100 million.

    The formula I see used for pure hosting companies is usually 6 months of income (income, not profit) plus something for the hardware and any other physical assets. Say they currently have 1.2 million clients, about 5% are paying for some sort of upgrade, and they’re paying $50 a year for what they’re getting, that works out to $1.5 million income for Automattic over 6 months by my math. (And I’m having to use Google to work this out so please politely correct me if I’m wrong.) Plus what they get for Professional Akismet accounts, VIP hosting, and corp support deals.

    I do like the comment on one of the sites that you link to where the commenters says that they wouldn’t be surprised if Matt himself was spreading those rumors. Maybe those tin hats are multiplying.🙂

  3. drmiketemp said

    Damn, I hate it when I think of something else 5 seconds after I leave a comment.🙂

    Of course those 4 or 5 companies that gave Matt seed money to get Automattic off the ground will have to taken care of if teh company is sold.

  4. Kissing Bandit said

    @Robin – Yahoo! wouldn’t need to buy WP (the software) because it’s free and open source. If they want it, they could have an employee download it in one afternoon.

    Wank’s and Deepak’s posts are, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong TGA), geared towards Yahoo! acquiring Automattic the company which owns WP.com, Akismet, et al. However, Deepak is speculating that WP the software would suffer as a result since Automattic is so entrenched in the software management/development process.

    -KB

  5. acquiring WP on their part (the software) would make no sense.

    I don’t think wordpress.org would be on the table anyway. Automattic doesn’t claim ownership of the project (they like to spin it as a community effort that just happens to be under their control) and it wouldn’t be worth the grief from the OS fanboys. Yahoo would have no use for bbPress either (along with the rest of the non-fanboy world), but Akismet might be a nice thing to have around.

    Also, wordpress.com would be a lovely ready-made platform for Yahoo to publish their ads and try to gain some traction on Adsense. Just saying.

  6. engtech said

    but what about yahoo mash? why go after blogs when you can compete against facebook with something like mash?

    blogs are so 2005

    http://mash.yahoo.com/profile.php?id=MAon7TNxwTXk_bki_LLjPdY

  7. ttancm said

    I just wonder if this means those of us who use self-hosted WP can now look forward to mandatory Gravatar integration in the next release =P

  8. Mark said

    Did I say too much? I don’t think so.
    It dropped off the planet for me because at that time no-one else was doing it. It was a niche thing. If you want to call it a fad then it’s a fad. For some blogging is a fad, facebook is, myspace. Everywhere you want to look there are fads because those that do not ‘do’ them call them that to justify why they do not do them. That isn’t a dig at you – I think that’s how it actually is for many things (“Oh she’ll grow out of it, it’s only a fad” is something I’ve been known to say about my girls.).

    But I have had an avatar since day 1 here. I have taken not just care in how it actually looks but also just what the image actually is. It matters here because the avatar is expected. It’s the norm. And it has also shown that they don’t just have to be pretty – “Not Staff” “Don’t block the blog” for instance🙂 – but it does try to put the personality on the text we type – the picture/1000 words thing.

    The obstacle I saw – which was why I blogged it – was Support. It’s how I look at most changes (obviously) and I looked at that because it wasn’t an easy job to slot them into comments.php. Right now though there are people working out just how to make that easier (Root left that comment on my blog) and it will certainly happen. There was no drive to make that code because there weren’t enough people to justify it. The plugin harks back to 1.2 – we’d only just left my-hacks.php then. So with the massed bloggers here there is an incentive to create the smoothest gravatar experience.

    People have asked that their non-blog owning friends can have an avatar on comments here – now they can. They have asked if they can use their avatar in their non-wordpress.com friend’s blogs – they will be able to (assuming code above).

    I liked the idea and I still do.

  9. drmiketemp said

    Anyone else notice that the post on the gravatar blog are now labeled as being written by Matt (ie ‘Posted by Matt’) instead of Tom Werner?

  10. yes, i noticed. it’s probably related to trying to import everything from mephisto. i doubt he intends to keep it that way. he had a similar snafu on themes.wp.net, which is now fixed, but it took him a couple of months (and resulted in some substantial angst from wpdesigner)

  11. hso said

    I told my wife last year sometime that Yahoo would eventually acquire wp.com, would that make me the first?🙂

  12. I still think it will be google that buys wp. I don’t understand why every one discounts them as a contender.

  13. One word: Blogger. Google already has a bloghost, so wordpress.com adds no value. I’m sure they’d like Akismet and Gravatar and probably Matt (though they must be aware he wouldn’t hang around for long), but they don’t need this place. Their only motives for buying it would be anticompetitive: kill it off to stop it competing with Blogger, or grab it so that Yahoo don’t get it first. Frankly I don’t think wp.com is enough of a threat for either of those options to be worth the expense, though given their infinite funds and their paranoia in regard to Text-Link Ads I may be wrong.

  14. Alan said

    Google owns both Google Video and YouTube, I don’t think it’s a massive stretch to consider them owning both Blogger and WP.com sometime in the future. I mean, I’m not saying Google would actually do it, I’m just saying them owning Blogger already wouldn’t stop them, if history is anything to go off.

  15. The difference here is that Google Video was a lame copy of YouTube, and given the chance to get their hands on the real thing they grabbed it. Blogger is not a lame copy of wordpress.com, and a much stronger brand than Google Video ever was. They are in some respects complementary — Blogger deals quite well with things that wp.com sucks at, and vice-versa — but ultimately they’re in competition. Also, the frameworks are too different to merge them into one super-duper Six Apart-annihilating tool.

  16. drmiketemp said

    Google can’t buy WordPress as it would be a lot of bad press. Having one division of a company (Akismet) stating that another division of the company (ie all those splogs over in blogger/blogspot land) is “evil” won’t float.

    One thought I did have is I would love to see a list provided to blog/webhosters which lists which sites are currently being tagged as splogs outputted by Akismet. May be a positive step for Blogger if they checked that list off against their current clients.

  17. Kissing Bandit said

    Well, it seems like someone nipping at their heels, but Matt is deflecting (and refusing the comment); see the TechCrunch post by Mike Arrington: Automattic Spurns $200 Million Acquisition Offer.

    -KB

  18. Kissing Bandit said

    One thought I did have is I would love to see a list provided to blog/webhosters which lists which sites are currently being tagged as splogs outputted by Akismet. May be a positive step for Blogger if they checked that list off against their current clients.

    And that’s where the true value for Google would be. Not WP.com, but Akismet.

    -KB

  19. Picture Improvement said

    Goodness, no. Akismet’s market isn’t in the same league as YouTube’s, so it wouldn’t be acquired for its user-base, and there’s no indication that the technology is anything special. Google could trivially implement something similar, and has for other services: compare the Gmail spam filters, for example, which have more stringent availability and performance requirements.

    As a wild guess, it’s possible that proactively filtering user content at Blogger might impact their common carrier status. (“You can block spam blogs, why can’t you block illegal mp3 distribution/hate speech/etc.?”)

  20. Kissing Bandit said

    As a wild guess, it’s possible that proactively filtering user content at Blogger might impact their common carrier status. (”You can block spam blogs, why can’t you block illegal mp3 distribution/hate speech/etc.?”)

    Not really. Blog spam and blocking illegal MP3/files are completely different beasts. Akismet relies on built-in spam filters* and its users to help it adjust for false positives and missed content. Asking users to “flag illegal MP3s and files” would be ludicrous. Not saying that people are inherently bad, but I doubt people will be jumping at the bit to report those who pirate.

    * Some people may not know this, but WP flags spam in the database as spam and it did so even before Akismet. Unfortunately, the comments database would grow to huge proportions because that spam was “hidden” from the WP admin panel, and those users who don’t actually check their databases would never catch it otherwise. Akismet solved that problem.

    The reason I say that Akismet would be the golden child for Google instead of WP.com is because Google could leverage Akismet’s userbase which is extremely far reaching.

    In fact, I’d estimate that it rivals some of Google’s own user bases when you consider that Akismet isn’t just for WP blogs or blogs at all. There are plugins for other CMS’s, contact forms, forums, and even guest books available.

    If Google decided it wanted to be evil, it could start collecting enormous amounts of data from the Akismet users. (I’m saying that as though Google hasn’t already done so with its other services. It was difficult to keep a straight face while typing it.)

    -KB

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