Even if you have never heard of Toni Schneider, odds are he’s helped to enrich the way you use a Yahoo e-mail account or read your favorite blog. As CEO of a startup called Oddpost from 2002 to 2004, he worked on developing Ajax Web applications that would eventually be used on the popular Yahoo Web mail service. When Oddpost was absorbed by Yahoo, he became VP of the Internet company’s developer network and helped open up the Yahoo platform for developers to create new Web applications. Now, all e-mailed out, he’s turned his attention to blogs. Since 2006, he’s held the CEO post at Automattic, a startup established by the core group of developers who worked on the open-source blogging software WordPress.org. CIO checked in with Schneider to see just what his company has been up to and when we can expect to start seeing more blogs in the enterprise.
CIO: What led you to start Automattic a couple years ago? What’s your relationship to the open-source WordPress blogging software?
Toni Schneider: We started Automattic to form a commercial arm to the WordPress open source project, which has been around about four years. It really started to get traction a couple years ago when it became clear there were a lot of people who wanted to use it more commercially. Rather than just have the downloaded version of WordPress, which is open source, we also wanted to offer a hosted version. To do that, we needed a company. Now we can offer WordPress as a hosted service both for free to consumers and as a paid hosted service to businesses.
CIO: Do you see the potential for blog tools like yours to catch on in the enterprise.
Schneider: Yes, but enterprise adoption has been much slower to take off than consumer blogging. Right now Automattic mostly focuses on the consumer side and media companies for publicly facing blogs. We host blogs for CNN and FoxNews, as an example. However, we do hear that companies desire to have the simplicity of the blogging we see on the consumer side within the enterprise. My guess is people will use blogging more and more for things like project management and as an internal productivity tool.
CIO: So, in other words, it could be a nice alternative to some of those complex enterprise tools that only a couple of people know how to use at each organization?
Schneider: There are lots of great enterprise tools out there, but they’re pretty complex and require your employees to learn a lot to use them. In that case, the temptation to fall back on e-mail is pretty great. Since WordPress is open source, there’s a rapid pace of ongoing improvements. For example, thousands of themes and plugins have been developed by the open source community that can be used by anyone to add features to WordPress. Let’s say you want to allow your employees to use their Blackberrys or iPhones to interact with their blogs—that’s already been built as a WordPress plugin.” If you had a more monolithic tool that’s not as open, you’d probably have to wait for the next software release and then spend a lot of money for that feature.
CIO: What will be the biggest challenge for companies looking to bring in blogs?
Schneider: I think the challenge is around the technology itself—that’s why it’s taken more time for blogging to hit the enterprise, because on the consumer side you don’t care as much about what’s under the hood. Typically, the more established businesses have been using things like Java and Oracle. Most blogging platforms operate on different technology such as an open source stack. Companies need to decide if they’d build expertise in PHP in addition to Java if they’re really serious about this. That can take some time in a big enterprise.