Blogging is dead. Again. That’s right, at least once a year the techno-hipsters weigh in with their thoughts and declare that the blog – be it personal, corporate or new media – is an ex-parrot and has ceased to be.
This time they’re saying that social networking sites are winning the battle and that Twitter is the nail in the coffin. There is nothing worth saying unless it can be expressed in 140 characters or less.
No big deal, says Matt Mullenweg, the 26-year-old founder of WordPress, one of the most popular blogging platforms on the internet that also happens to be the 18th most-visited website globally, according to Alexa.com.
Keynote speaker at Dublin Web Summit
Mullenweg, one of the keynote speakers at the Dublin Web Summit 2.0 on 4 February, started WordPress at the age of 19. He founded its parent company, Automattic, in 2005 and at the age of 23 was ranked No 16 on ‘The 50 Most Important People on the Web’ list created by PC World. A year later, he was dubbed one of the ‘25 Most Influential People on the Web’ by BusinessWeek. He’s not fazed by fads.
“I think a lot of this is down to the fact that people have an endless fascination with things that are new and we like to think of new things as killing old things; a constant titanic struggle,” says Mullenweg.
“It’s often more complementary. Television and radio haven’t eliminated books, the book is a correct medium for a certain form of communication and I believe blogging is a correct medium for many forms of communication.”
I tell Mullenweg about a recent blog post on a prominent Irish site declaring its demise. He laughs uproariously at the irony inherent in having to blog about blogging being over in order to get an audience. So have reports of blogging’s death been greatly exaggerated?
“We’ve had similar articles in the US where people have pronounced that blogging is dead, the most famous being a guy called Jason Calacanis who now maintains a very active blog.
“I think microblogging (Twitter) is complementary and it works logically if you think about it. You can only say so much in 140 characters, and hopefully at some points in our day or our life we have thoughts that expand beyond that. A lot of messages on Twitter actually link off to other places, including blog posts.
“If you want to run ads on your site, have a domain that you control and so on, you can’t do this on Facebook or Twitter. A lot of people using WordPress are not just using it for a blog; they maintain forums or carry out e-commerce.
“Ultimately, it is on their own domain, which is something they own and control in perpetuity no matter what Facebook, Google or Twitter does. That is always going to valuable.”
Having said that, Mullenweg believes that if he had to do it all again starting in 2010 he would do it differently.
“The trajectory (of WordPress) would look very different because the software world is different now. The blog market is more saturated and social tools are a lot more important so, yeah, maybe it would look different and maybe one of the first features I’d build in would be a Facebook integration or something like that, whereas five or six years ago this wasn’t even on anybody’s mind.”
WordPress social integration
Mullenweg is actually trying out some social integration right now for WordPress: “BuddyPress is a way for people who want to run their own social network to have really robust WordPress-quality software to do so.
“The wonderful thing about Facebook and sites like this is that everyone is on them but the horrible thing is that everyone is on them, right?”
BuddyPress is essentially an experiment to see what happens when people are given the ability to run their own specific social network for their community group or company, for example, explains Mullenweg.
This constant innovation has seen Automattic not only extend its open-source blogging platforms through improvements but also via acquisitions, the latest being Irish online poll company PollDaddy.
“There are some exciting new things on the horizon for PollDaddy. I can’t talk about it yet, but I can tell you that PollDaddy was our second service to reach one billion page views a month.”
As an open-source platform Mullenweg says that WordPress’ innovation is driven by staying close to the community and listening to people.
“Sometimes they’ll tell us if they are really passionate about a feature or functionality and we start to think about the best way to do that. It’s something I think about a lot – we are mostly driven by the same things our users ask for.”