As some of you already know w2i (web2innovations.com) is keeping an internal archive of almost all funding and acquisition deals that happened over the past years on web. While we have the ambitions to report on all of them the deals are so many so that we end up only writing about some of the most interesting ones. The same is the case with Automattic when they bought Glavatar some months ago. We kept the news in our archive for quite long time trying to figure out ourselves what is the real motive behind the acquisition of Glavatar and since we came up to no particular synergy and reason we have decided today to simply write about.
First off Automattic is the company behind the popular blog software WordPress. The site is amongst the most popular on web with more than 90M uniques per month. When Matt Mullenweg, announced the deal on the Glavatar’s blog he wrote about so many improvements that Glavatar is going to face with its new owner. Such as scaling things up, they transferred the Rails application and most of the avatar serving to WordPress.com’s infrastructure and servers. Avatar serving was said is already more than three times as fast, and works every time. They’ve also moved Glavatar’s blog from Mephisto to WordPress, of course.
He further said “Basically, we did the bare minimum required to stabilize and accelerate the Gravatar service, focusing a lot on making the gravatars highly available and fast. However our plans are much bigger than that.” Among those are all of the Premium features have gone free, and refunding was offered to anyone who bought them in the last 60 days; gravatar serving moved to a Content Delivery Network (CDN) so not only will they be fast, it’ll be low latency and not slow down a page load; Merging the million avatars WordPress had with the 115,000 or so Glavatar brought on the table after the deal and make them available through the Gravatar API; integrate and improve templates and bring features like multiple avatars over; from WordPress.com, bring the bigger sizes (128px) over and make that available for any Gravatar (Gravatars are only available up to 80px); Adding Microformat support for things like XFN rel=”me” and hCard to all avatar profile pages (that is in particular an interesting move); develop a new API that has cleaner URLs and allows Gravatars to be addressed by things like URL in addition to (or instead of) email addresses and not last rewrite the entire application itself to fit directly into WordPress.com’s grid, for internet-scale performance and reliability.
These days after Yahoo announcing big plans of moving towards web semantics and adopting some of the microformats and hinting LinkedIn for possible better relations with their data set if they adopt them too is a clear signal that web is slowly moving towards semantically linking of data. Automattic is obviously looking forward to that time too with its plans to add microformats like XFN (XHTML Friends Network) and hCard (simple, open, distributed format for representing people, companies, organizations, and places, using a 1:1 representation of vCard (RFC2426) properties and values in semantic HTML or XHTML). An interesting example of contextually and semantically linked web data is LinkedWords and, as you can see, the way we use them to semantically and contextually link words across our texts and connect them to their contextual platform.
So far so good, but nothing from the above indicates what is the reason Automattic bought the site called Glavatar. It is definitely neither because of their user base (only 115K) nor because of the technology, obviously. Employment through acquisition? Not really, Tom Werner, the founder of Glavatar is being said to be a big Ruby guy and taking into consideration the fact Matt seems to be moving towards PHP with Glavatar it seems highly unlikely for Tom to stay with Automattic.
From everything being said publicly it turns out that Automattic has decided to help the small site work better, but no clear benefits are seen for their company from this deal, or at least not to us.
We do believe Matt where he says “our plans are much bigger than that”, but what those plans are? Building a social network upon the avatars and the profile data associated with or perhaps having an online identity service built upon. Or, perhaps, simply building a global avatar service (with in-depth profiles) makes more sense for a company that commands over 100M uniques per month rather than for a tiny web site like Glavatar.
Whatever the case is congratulations to the involved. Terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.
More about Glavatar
The web is no longer about anonymous content generated by faceless corporations. It is about real people and the real content that they provide.
It is about you.
But as powerful as the web has become, it still lacks the personal touch that comes from a handshake. The vast majority of content you come across on the web will still be near-anonymous even though it may have a name attached. Without knowing the author behind the words, the words cannot be trusted. This is where Gravatar comes in.
Gravatar aims to put a face behind the name. This is the beginning of trust. In the future, Gravatar will be a way to establish trust between producers and consumers on the internet. It will be the next best thing to meeting in person.
Today, an avatar. Tomorrow, Your Identity–Online.