At FOWA, WordPress' Mullenweg talks about scaling and spamming

Young entrepreneur offers Web 2.0 conference attendees a few secrets to his success, adding that he can eat a lot of chicken nuggets.

This post was updated at 4:49 PM PT with a clarification from Matt Mullenweg.

MIAMI--"I'm Matt Mullenweg, and I'm famous for eating 108 Chicken McNuggets and surviving," the eccentric 24-year-old WordPress founder said in his talk at the Future of Web Apps conference, explaining that he's no longer continually the No. 1 "Matt" in a Google search because the dancing viral-video star "Where The Hell Is Matt?" gives him a run for his money.

At FOWA, Mullenweg was slated to talk about both the physical and psychological "architecture" of WordPress, which has gained both positive buzz and popularity for being simply constructed, easy to use, and remarkably efficient.

"Scale is what separates us from the other industries of the world," he explained, saying that it's only in the technology business that a tiny entrepreneurial team can create something used by millions of people. WordPress, Mullenweg said, powers 2,523,000 blogs, gets 135 million global unique visitors, and has only 19 full-time employees.

Matt Mullenweg Wordpress

"All these old-media companies are adding blogs like it's going out of style," he said, talking about how WordPress now powers blogs for The New York Times, CNN, and Fox News ("unfortunately," he added on that last one).

Mullenweg added later in a conversation that he didn't intend "unfortunately" to sound the way it did and that he meant no offense to WordPress' major media clients.

He had quite a bit of advice for the audience. "Be the person in the support forums who's answering everybody's questions," Mullenweg advised start-up entrepreneurs in the room. If you don't look like you're hard-core about your company and its users, he said, you won't build up a following.

It was a pretty geek speak-intensive talk, with Mullenweg explaining to the developer-filled concert hall how WordPress handles server and bandwidth demands, and how to take advantage of systems like Memcached, which was originally developed for social-media pioneer LiveJournal. But he also expounded a bit on the Web 2.0 landscape and some of the issues it faces--like spam, the ugly side of the open-social Web. WordPress has deleted more than 800,000 "splogs," or spam blogs, for example.

Spammers are "the terrorists of Web 2.0," Mullenweg said. "They come into our communities and take advantage of our openness." He suggested that people may have moved away from e-mail and toward messaging systems like Facebook messaging and Twitter to get away from spam. But with all those "zombie bites" showing up in his Facebook in-box, he explained, the spammers are pouncing on openness once again.

He also has a pretty nontraditional view of ad revenues, the supposed cash coffer of new-media sites. "Most of you have never, and will never, seen an ad on WordPress.com," Mullenweg said, referring to WordPress.org's free blog-hosting arm. "We decided to show ads only on certain pages, only to the people who were sort of random drive-by visitors...if you use Firefox, you'll never see an ad, no matter what, mostly because I like Firefox."

 

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