The closure of Pownce, which was announced Monday via posts by co-founder Leah Culver and her new employer, blog software company Six Apart, didn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s followed Pownce since its launch last year. Despite help from co-founders like Kevin Rose of Digg and usability guru Daniel Burka, the service never really found an audience, or at least not one big enough to make a go of it. In the end, Pownce was just too much like Twitter (and Jaiku and Plurk, for that matter); the added features it had — including the ability to transfer files — weren’t enough to set it apart in people’s minds, much less turn it into a must-have utility.
So why did Six Apart, the blogging software provider founded by husband-and-wife team Ben and Mena Trott, decide to buy the company? It’s possible that they just saw Culver and her fellow Powncer Mike Malone as valuable hires in the programming department, and decided to acqu-hire them, as Google (s goog) has done with so many startup founders over the years. But while the Pownce service is being shut down, could its features live on inside Six Apart and its Vox blogging service? I think that’s a very real possibility. Culver, for example, notes in her blog post that she hopes to “come back with something much better in 2009.”
Twitter and its ilk are often referred to as platforms for “micro-blogging,” because (in the right hands at least) a 140-character message posted to the service can be almost as good as a blog post. More than one blogger has said that the frequency of their blog posts has decreased since they began Twittering, and some have given up full-blown blogging altogether. Others, however (myself included), use Twitter as a kind of feeder system for their blogs. Not only do they use it to find ideas, links and conversation that spark longer blog posts, but they use it in reverse — to alert potential readers to their posts. And in many cases the conversation extends from the blog to the chat service and vice-versa. There’s an almost symbiotic relationship between the two services, with each feeding off and benefiting from the other.
Six Apart has made a number of acquisitions that indicate the company is thinking about how to extend its services, including social media application maker Apperceptive. Much like its blog software competitor Automattic, the home of WordPress (see disclosure below), the company seems to be looking for tools that can be incorporated into its platforms to make them more robust as media publishing services. Could a Twitter-style tool be part of that vision for Six Apart? It would make a lot of sense, just as WordPress buying Buddypress (a startup that added social networking functionality to the platform) and launching a Twitter-style chat theme called Prologue made sense.
There are already a variety of plugins and tools that allow WordPress and Movable Type bloggers to incorporate Twitter into their blogs, either by posting their messages automatically in a sidebar, or in some cases, by allowing them to post to Twitter from their blog dashboard. But having someone who understands how such services operate could help Six Apart integrate these kinds of features more fully into their platforms, as well as making it easier to develop new ones that could merge micro-blogging and “real” blogging. At the end of the day, Six Apart and Automattic aren’t just blogging services but content-management and content-publishing companies, and Twitter messages are just another form of content that needs to be managed and published.
Auttomatic 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.