Yahoo just acquired blogging service Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Founded by 26-year-old David Karp, it’s a great service that exploded to over a 100 million users in a just a few short years. Even better, it was built in New York. :-)
With Tumblr acquired, I’d like to point your attention to another one of my favorite Web services: WordPress. It’s a free and open-source blogging software and content management system, and its parent Automattic also runs a paid hosting service. It was founded by another 20 something, Matt Mullenweg.
I’ve hosted numerous blogs on WordPress since 2006, including my personal website and my company’s website. In fact, it’s estimated that over 20% of websites run on WordPress. At the expense of sounding like a Fanboy, I consider WordPress one of the Internet’s great treasures.
Here are some of the things I love about it:
1. It’s great blogging software -- simple, instant and free.
2. It’s a high quality CMS -- great beyond just blogs.
3. It’s incredibly easy to use, even for Web novices.
4. It’s flexible and customizable.
5. Search engine spiders love its crawlable permalink URL structure.
6. It has one of the largest, most passionate open-source developer communities, which has created tens of thousands of simple, powerful plugins and widgets.
7. It also has one of the largest, most passionate open-source design communities, which has created thousands of beautiful templates.
8. The presence of those massive developer and design communities means you can find professional and amateur resources to help build and maintain websites.
9. The massive user membership (tens of millions of websites) has proven the software nimble enough for tiny self-expression websites like mine, and scalable enough for gigantic ones like TechCrunch and CNN.
10. Finally, the service has (so far) remained pure and free of spam and overbearing commercial interest.
On my last point, there is absolutely nothing wrong with advertising and commercial interest. Yet there are some cases where independence is desirable, where the users are the service’s customers (versus advertisers being the service’s customers).
Dan Gillmor quoted Mullenweg in a recent Guardian column: “I think it's really important for the independent web to have a platform, and to the extent that WordPress can serve that role, I think it's a great privilege and responsibility...So I've always tried to orient Automattic's business model to not be advertising, where your users are the product that you're selling to someone else, but to be subscriptions, which I feel is a lot more honest, because your users are the people who are also funding it. So you're naturally more aligned with their interest."
Automattic has raised over $30 million in venture funding over the past few years, plus an additional $50 million last week from hedge fund and private-equity investor Tiger Global. With higher commercial stakes and greater involvement from big investors, Automattic’s leadership and troops will sustain their magic for years to come, I hkope.