WordPress founder looks into blogging's future

Matt Mullenweg could be considered a superstar here at the BlogWorld conference, where he spoke to hundreds about starting WordPress and the future of blogging.

LAS VEGAS, Nev.--If you type "Matt" into the Google search bar, you won't immediately get results for the actor Matt Damon or the political site owner Matt Drudge, as you might expect.

Instead, the No. 1 listing points to the site of Matt Mullenweg, the 23-year-old founder of WordPress, the widely used open-source software for blogging.

Befitting his Google ranking, Mullenweg could be considered a superstar here at the BlogWorld conference, where he spoke to hundreds of attendees Thursday about how he started WordPress and the future of blogging. To be sure, when people in the audience were asked if they use WordPress for their personal blogs, a unanimous show of hands went up. Everyone from politics to bowling bloggers seemed eager to get Mullenweg's advice on the art of the craft--and how to make money from it.

Mullenweg offered simple pearls of wisdom about what makes a blog compelling.

"One universal about blogging is a lot like music: you have to be unique and you have to absolutely love what you're doing," he said.

Mullenweg started developing WordPress while he was still in college; and he worked on it over several years, including while at CNET Networks, publisher of News.com. Once he left CNET in late 2005, he started the business behind WordPress, called Automattic, which sells blog hosting services and an antispam application.

Now, the site draws roughly 100 million unique monthly visitors and is among the top 25 global sites, according to research firm Comscore.

Still, WordPress and Automattic only have 18 employees and they operate from a small investment made in the company more than two years ago, Mullenweg said. How do they fulfill all that demand with 18 people? "Lots of caffeine," he said.

When asked about the future of his business, he answered that he likes the Craigslist model, which as a company has stayed relatively small and does not accept advertising. But he said that he believes there's a way to incorporate ads that are tasteful.

"I would like to stay small but logistically we need many more people on the support side."

Blogs are also just one tier in the frenzied social media industry that encompasses Facebook and others. Asked how his software meshes with sites like Facebook, he said he'd like to see more incorporation between the two. Because ultimately, he said, blogs are more telling of a person's personality. That's why he believes WordPress will become a more popular social-network platform, allowing people to post things like widgets of their Facebook profile on a blog or vice versa.

"The software is getting smaller, faster and lighter but what you can do with it is going up," he said.

In the grand scheme of things, Mullenweg said he wants the future of the Web to be open source; and he hopes to get more people using open-source platforms to write their blogs, even if it's not WordPress.

But he's obviously driven competitively, too. (His blog ranks No. 1 on Google because of all the links back to his site from WordPress.) He recently saw a survey from Google, in which the search giant examined all of the http headers of Web. He found that .8 percent of those pages were powered by WordPress.

"That's how far we've come, but we have a lot of work to do," he said.

 

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