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WordPress' Mullenweg: Users lose in Twitter-Instagram spat

It's a problem when Internet companies try to restrict users to their own turf, says the founder of a widely used online publishing software and service.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Automattic and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg speaking at LeWeb.
Automattic and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg speaking at LeWeb. Stephen Shankland/CNET

The turf battle between Instagram and Twitter shows the sites have the wrong priorities, said Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic and its WordPress.com blogging service.

There's a danger when a company focuses too much on its own properties and pleasing its own advertisers at the expense of giving its users what they need, Mullenweg said here at the LeWeb 2012 show. Those problems are what's afflicted microblogging site Twitter and photo-sharing service Instagram, which Facebook recently acquired.

Twitter has been restricting access to third-party tweeting software and limiting access that third-party companies such as Instagram get to Twitter users' lists of followers. And yesterday, Instagram stopped using Twitter's "cards" feature to let Twitter users see photos shared with Instagram. The real loser is the user, Mullenweg said.

"No user is saying, 'I don't want my Instagram photos not to show up on Twitter.' It's a bad user experience," Mullenweg said. "The Internet titans would love for you to choose between one or the other," but that doesn't work out well because people use multiple services.

Twitter, too, has been harming users. "What's best for advertisers on Twitter's platform isn't for there to be 20 different clients, or for tweets to be embedded around the Web," Mullenweg said. On Twitter and Facebook, users are the product that's being sold to advertisers, he said.

WordPress tries to align its business with customers. "We're always trying to align our business model to the customer," he said.

WordPress is an open-source software package for online publishing, and it's the name of Automattic's service that uses the software to let customers publish. About 17 percent of the top million sites use WordPress, he said.

The company is trying to adapt to the new era of smartphones and tablets, he said. Automattic now employs more developers writing mobile app software than the core WordPress publishing software, he said.

"We have been reimagining WordPress for a touch interface," he said, and in ten years, he expects the majority of WordPress.com traffic to come from tablets.