WordPress: Going after Ning.com?

I’m still technically on vacation in Florida as I type this, but it’s raining outside and I can’t help but post something on the news that Automattic — the parent company of WordPress — has acquired Buddypress, as WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg describes on his blog. It’s not so much that this is a huge deal, since it clearly isn’t. Buddypress was the one-man project of Andy Peatling, who took a version of WordPress MU (multi-user) and modified it to turn it into Chickspeak.com.

But nevertheless, I find it interesting because of what it says about where WordPress is going. Not only did the company just finish raising a boatload of cash, with the New York Times as an investor (which I wrote about here) but Matt has clearly gotten religion about the future of online media being social, and I think building on what Andy did with WordPress MU is his way of helping to make that happen.

If you take a look at Chickspeak, it looks very much like the kind of social network that Ning.com helps people build (I’m a member of a couple of Ning-powered social networks, including Social News Central and Wired Journalists), and Andy Peatling put it together by basically hacking a WordPress theme and plugging BBPress into it for user forums. And from Matt’s post, he appears to see that as a potential solution to the numerous social-network silos that are out there.

“Someday, perhaps, the world will have a truly Free and Open Source alternative to the walled gardens and open-only-in-API platforms that currently dominate our social landscape.”

Actually, from the sounds of it, Matt doesn’t just want to take on Ning — he wants to go after Facebook as well, but with an open platform rather than another closed network (check the quote he gave Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch about “digital sharecropping” for other networks). More power to him, I say. It’s something others are also thinking about, including Chris “Factory Joe” Messina and his DiSo project.

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