Will the real WordPress.com audience please stand up?


WordPress.com has caused a real buzz in the blogosphere. Perhaps the new craze has been culminated by none other than Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion mentioning his consideration to switching to WordPress (and his link points to “.com” and not “.org”).

I’ve both read and received several questions regarding WordPress.com –

“How is WordPress.com going to make money? Are there going to be ads?”

It also appears that some think WordPress.com will compete or should somehow be compared to other hosted services (read: TypePad).

I am not certain that these questions or comparisons make a lot of sense – here’s why.

Money?
For starters, the way that Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress, described WordPress.com at the BBS was a sort of blog for the common man. Unless he was holding something back (which could be possible), there seemed no future plans to allow a user to have customized plugins or any code modifications — WordPress.com is offered as is, take it or leave it.

As far as the “how will WordPress.com make any money” goes, that question starts with what I believe is a false premise — that WordPress.com wants to or perhaps more importantly needs to make money.

When I and others at the BBS spoke to Matt after his presentation, he said that the hardware for WP.com was being donated. I?d gather most likely from rather large businesses and organizations who have wielded the power of WordPress to make their own highly modified content management systems. Consider it their way of giving back to the open source community.

TypePad versus WordPress.com
I submit that a TypePad to WordPress.com comparison is an apples to oranges analogy.

TypePad is not a “here is my first blog” platform. That is what people use Blogger, Yahoo! 360, or Xanga to do. TypePad is a paid service, even at its most basic of levels. Via TypePad, users have the flexibility to get a relatively advanced blog up and running with limited to no technical knowledge ? no worries about hosting, no worries about code, no worries about design (although with the “plus” and “pro” levels they can use TypePad to do much more).

Typically the progression to TypePad would look something like this:

Blogger to Typepad

WordPress (“.org” and not “.com”), like TypePad is not a ?here is my first blog? platform. In fact, it requires much more skill than TypePad ? ensuring your third party requirements are in order, customizing themes and plugins, and the need for your own hosting. Let?s be realistic, typical Internet users are still struggling with terms like DNS, never mind having their own hosting. And that my friends, is the crux of my argument.

WordPress.com is not a competitor to TypePad. As it presently exists, it will cater to the new blogger, the person who is not worried about design and is happy with out-of-the-box behavior. It will cater to the surfer dude that thinks it would be gnarly to write about the waves he has caught or to the proud mother of a new baby girl.

Why would these types of users choose WordPress.com over other options? At the start, the hype will suffice. In the end, it will be the experience and rave reviews of other bloggers that will drive the creation of new WordPress.com blogs.

WordPress.com is going to bring a superb open source blogging platform to a much larger public audience but it will offer only a taste of what is possible. And that is why my hypothesis is that WordPress.com will actually be a gateway to WordPress. If there is any strategy behind WordPress.com, that may be it. Proud developers like Matt simply want users throughout the world to play with their software. More importantly, he wants them to help make it better.

WordPress.com to WordPress

In conclusion, if there is any comparison to be made between blogging platforms, it would not be WordPress.com versus TypePad but rather remain what it has been to this point, WordPress(.org) versus TypePad. The WordPress team might have just found a better way to achieve the goal of promoting their platform. I mean, I did just write a treatise on it, right?