Millions of people use the software that Matt Mullenweg helped to create, but very few of them would probably know his name. He is the baby-faced founder of WordPress — the open-source software that powers more than 50 million blogs, including some published by leading news websites such as the New York Times — and Automattic Inc., the for-profit spinoff from WordPress. Mullenweg, who was named one of the top 25 most influential people on the web by BusinessWeek, is a keynote speaker at our GigaOM RoadMap conference on Nov. 10 in San Francisco.
WordPress was created in 2003 when Mullenweg, who was then only nineteen years old and a freshman at the University of Houston, started modifying a popular blogging tool called b2 to make it easier to use. He was joined by several other programmers and WordPress was born — and from the beginning, Mullenweg says that he was firmly committed to making the software open source, because he himself had benefited from using so many open source tools as a programmer. WordPress got a huge boost in 2004 when another blog-software maker, Moveable Type, announced a pricing change that drove a lot of its users to WordPress, and it continued to grow strongly.
In 2006, Mullenweg founded Automattic (please see disclosure below), a for-profit company that was designed to sell services related to WordPress, which remained free for anyone to use and modify. So WordPress grew on two parallel tracks: the free and open-source software was available to anyone through WordPress.org — and at the same time, paid hosting and other services were available for a fee to individuals and corporate clients such as CNN and the New York Times through WordPress.com. Earlier this year, WordPress announced that more than 50 million blogs now use its software.
Managing an open-source community and a profitable startup at the same time has not been an easy task, but Mullenweg says he believes that the principle of open source is an important one, and that more companies should think about what they are giving back to the web and information technology community. To hear more of Matt Mullenweg’s thoughts on this topic, please join us at RoadMap, which you can find out more about at the conference website — tickets are available through EventBrite.
Disclosure: Automattic, the maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.