Matt Mullenweg on the third age of WordPress

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Matt Mullenweg

**Matt Mullenweg, Founder, Automattic, **interviewed by Om Malik, Founder & Senior Writer, GigaOM

WordPress powers 17% of the top million sites on the web – and that’s a huge responsibility. Matt Mullenweg wants to democratise publishing – but he also wants to build a sustainable business. Automattic sells services around WordPress, and they’re growing it to be large, sustainable and independent.

“Some of the things around Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are troubling,” says Matt. Facebook and Twitter’s primary customers aren’t those of we think as users – it’s the advertisers. Apple does well when they make something amazing, and you get your wallet out to pay for it. Their primary customer is you. He doesn’t approve of Instagram’s move – it doesn’t benefit users. WordPress comments work with all sorts of logins, and they have the freedom to do that. Data silos don’t make sense to him.

Does he plan on integrating other services into WordPress? Absolutely. You can always come home to your blog, whatever else you do. If you can back up some of that other content in your blog, so much the better. And you can push posts from WordPress to other engines. People said years ago that blogs were dead because of social media – but it has ended up providing a distribution channel for blogging instead.

Personlised online experiences

Om Malik Om is one of the philosophers of the web, says Matt. He love bespoke, hand-crafted things. How does that fit into the modern web? More personalised experiences, based on sensors and data input, says Om. It becomes our web, not their web. Facebook and Instagram are trying to sell us their web. We are the hub, not them. It’ll happen by 2020.

If you try to control the user experience on the web too much, that’s when the ecosystem fights back. Matt doesn’t want one device and one service that does everything, just as he doesn’t always want to eat in one restaurant.

Future WordPress Innovation

Where is the next big innovation for WordPress going to happen? Probably in plugins. There are 20,000 of them, and that’s where the open development happens. The first four years of WordPress were about blogging, the second four were about being a CMS – from being something on your website, to being your website.

He was shown a YMCA login app, and wondered what the WordPress connection was. The answer? The backend was all WordPress. The next four years could be WordPress as an application platform.

Mobile? He describes WordPress as being like an SLR, full of functions advanced users can find in the application. But for mobile, you can simplify and simplify the application’s UI to make it work in that environment. And they have more people working on the mobile version than the desktop one right now.

There’s something about the time it takes to create something and the time it take to consume something. People appreciate that. That’s why books are so good – and blogs.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.