Google Blog Platform

A few years ago, in the early days of blogging, Google made a play to buy the Blogger platform. What occurred after that was a long period of time where Blogger received no love from their new parents. Also during this time, Movable Type came along and was then eclipsed by WordPress. WordPress went from a project to a business with the advent of Automattic and WordPress.com while the software remained an open source project for anyone to use and build upon.

It wasn’t until WordPress.com came along that we began to see some forward motion with Blogger. Google tied it to their authentication system and added some spit and polish, but nothing earth shattering. One of the biggest failures of Blogger is not the platform, but the management. It is the single largest source of splogs (or spam blogs) in the world – a failure of leadership that can be placed squarely at the feet of Google management. Meanwhile, WordPress.com is an open and airy environment that is policed actively (but passively, if that makes sense – no one is being a Nazi about content, but spam is ruthlessly dealt with).

While Google continues to release a parade of new products (anyone tracking the release of Google Shiny(Beta) today?), some of their largest and most potentially lucrative assets continues to meander aimlessly in an industry that continues to expand at a relentless pace.

Here’s a comparison between Blogger and WordPress.com

Blogger WordPress.com
Cost Free Free*
Personal Domains Yes Yes*
Template Control Yes CSS*
Javascript Yes No
Discoverability No Yes
Remote APIs Blogger Movable Type, Metaweblog, Atom, WordPress
Portability w/Domain Hosting only WXR Export
* Optional Paid Upgrade

Of all the migrations I’ve ever made, the biggest challenge exists around Blogger blogs. I’ve moved WordPress to WordPress, Movable Type to WordPress, Blogger to WordPress, Serendipty and Expression Engine to WordPress. I’ve moved TypePad to Movable Type. Blogger to Movable Type. You get the point. The most difficult migrations are off of the blogger platform.

Mark Evans suggested this morning that Google buy WordPress.com for name recognition and platform familiarity. The idea is to bolster the suite of services that Google offers now that it will have its integrated browser. Mark argues that WordPress.com has tons of traffic.

Here’s a hint though. Google doesn’t care about traffic. Plus, they have Blogger. Granted, Blogger sucks but according to Compete, it gets more traffic anyway.

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So here’s what we know. Blogger gets more traffic, but savvy users like it less (particularly the UI and SEO). We also know that Blogger is a closed platform and that it is laden with spam. We know that Blogger is under very little active development, or their release schedule is abysmal.

We also know that WordPress is an open source platform that invites external developers to hack on it. We know there’s viable business in using the platform (hey, you don’t have to pay for active development on the platform!). We know that there is a hosted and self hosted version currently and that the WXR format makes it easy to transfer data around. We know that Akismet is open source and can be used to kill spam as well. We know that there are tens of thousands of people developing themes, plugins and offering knowledge. We know that it is possible to have a hosted version of WordPress in the vein of Blogger. We know Google engineers are smart.

So here’s what I propose instead. Leave Automattic alone. Let them keep innovating and building their enterprise client list like the New York Times, Dow Jones, and more. Matt has no interest in Google (at least he didn’t) as his philosophy is largely incongruous with Google (open source via mostly closed source).

Instead, Blogger should be transformed into an WordPress MU platform. Google engineers can solve problems such as providing FTP to other hosts, as Google has, with the new WP_Filesystem class that is used for plugin and automatic upgrades.

They can use their cloud to provide DNS services to point Blogger blogs to a different host, as they do now. They can tie in Google Auth with the available hooks. They can even port existing Blogger theme offerings to WordPress themes.

They retain the traffic and immediately compete on a close level, at least by all tangible metrics, with WordPress.com. Of course, there is that little thing about management styles where WordPress.com wins hands down in the current paradigm, but… thats something that can’t be addressed by technology.

Personally, I think it’s a solid play. May not happen, but it probably should for Google’s sake.

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

11 thoughts on “Google Blog Platform”

  1. I think you are getting your products confused throughout your post. WordPress is free and open-source, WordPress.com is “free” closed source and cost money to do small changes. Automattic really should support Atompub to transfer data around because it is a/the standard not WXR, the undocumented wordpress unstandard. Lastly Akismet is far from open source and it cost hundreds of dollars if you site is popular. You may be thinking of Typepad Antispam from 6A which is completely free and open source.

  2. Your logic is wrong.P1: WP is OSP2: Business in BloggingP3: WXR is easyP4: Akismet is OSP5: A large community for WPC: port blogger to WP_MU… P1 is true and valid. P2 can be true but not in this context. WordPress.com does NOT allow users to place ads on their blogs. So is the business in blogging in WP the OS platform in P1 or WordPress.com the closed source hosted version?P3: True, but still not a standard and little/no documentation.P4: False, Akismet is not open source. P5: True for WP but not WP.com has limitations and you cannot have your own plugins, themes, etc. Now your conclusion is cool, like edublogs.com took WP_Mu and made a hosting service but would it not be easier for Google to just listen to their customers and the market and make changes to their system?!

  3. P2: The business aspect is Automattic's business of running WP.com, not the business side of blogging. Cause if you're a business, you either go with the Pro Services, or you use WP.org.P4: Irrelevant. Google can pay the commercial license and run with it. Also, I believe the Akismet PLUGIN is OS, while the service (obviously) is not.C: Why not use Blogger? Cause the code's legacy code, they could port all blogger blogs in a weekend, and have a new hosted version of Blogger up in months, with every feature every Blogger user has ever wanted.I'm not saying I buy the argument, but claiming Aaron's logic is flawed, while having flawed logic yourself is pretty ironical (and, yes, before you anally correct me using a not-real word, the use of ironical instead of ironic was irony in and of itself).

  4. P2: The business aspect is Automattic's business of running WP.com, not the business side of blogging. Cause if you're a business, you either go with the Pro Services, or you use WP.org.P4: Irrelevant. Google can pay the commercial license and run with it. Also, I believe the Akismet PLUGIN is OS, while the service (obviously) is not.C: Why not use Blogger? Cause the code's legacy code, they could port all blogger blogs in a weekend, and have a new hosted version of Blogger up in months, with every feature every Blogger user has ever wanted.I'm not saying I buy the argument, but claiming Aaron's logic is flawed, while having flawed logic yourself is pretty ironical (and, yes, before you anally correct me using a not-real word, the use of ironical instead of ironic was irony in and of itself).

  5. After being a Blogger user for many years I can honestly say that I get more traffic on WordPress now, probably thanks to SEO plugins. But I found WordPress very SEO friendly right out of the box. I also get much more spam on WordPress than I ever did on Blogger. No contest.Google buy out WordPress? God forbid! That would be a big mistake.

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