Avatars, Blavatars, and Gravatars

Blavatars? Blog + avatars, explained Heather earlier today on the WordPress.com blog. I was confused, because a WordPress.com user can already have an avatar: an image that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on avatar enabled sites.

There’s no explanation of the differences between an avatar (as already available at WordPress.com) and blavatar (as announced today). I think that there are two main differences. First, an avatar is associated with a user, while a blavatar is associated with a blog. A WordPress.com user can have many blogs.

Second, an avatar appears when you comment on a blog or when you post to the support forums. A blavatar provides the much-requested favicon, and also appears when you ping another blog.

If you’re wondering where gravatars fit in: a WordPress.com avatar is essentially a gravatar. The Gravatar web service was acquired by Automattic last year.

Automattic Making Money From Other Projects

By other, I mean other than WordPress. We are almost at the end of my series of posts on Automattic, and how the firm makes money. We’ll start by noting that the firm provides a handy summary of its projects. Some of them are covered in earlier posts in this series (e.g., WordPress.com).

There are three non-WordPress projects: Akismet, bbPress, and Gravatar. (Actually, to describe them as “non-WordPress” is to simplify since, as we will see, each has firm connections to WordPress.) I find the first of these the most interesting, and I know I’m not alone in that. Askismet is an ambitious project.

Automattic Kismet (Akismet for short) is a collaborative effort to make comment and trackback spam a non-issue and restore innocence to blogging, so you never have to worry about spam again.

Although Akismet is an Automattic project and is WordPress.com’s spam cop, it is not only for WordPress blogs. The Akismet API is published so that the server can be invoked from other applications.

The Akismet server is unusual among Automattic projects in that it is closed source. This seems to be the norm for spam-fighting server code: it is also true of Akismet’s rivals Defensio and Mollom.

Automattic, as a privately-held firm, is under no obligation to provide details of how much money it makes from specific projects. But Duncan Riley at TechCrunch described Akismet as Automattic’s biggest money earner. Toni, Automattic’s CEO, was quick to counter what he described as “misconceptions,” stating that Akismet is not even close to being Automattic’s biggest earner.

Direct earnings from Akismet come from commercial licenses. Indirect earnings arise from the extent to which Akismet helps convince bloggers to choose WordPress.com.

Moving on to the other other projects, bbPress is forum software. It runs the various WordPress forums. To put it another way, bbPress is the name under which Automattic released the software on which the WordPress.org support forums have been running for years. Automattic intends to offer hosted forums under the name TalkPress (rather as it offers hosted blogging at WordPress.com).

Gravatar is notable among Automattic projects for having been acquired; I believe it to be Automattic’s only acquisition so far. At the time of the acquisition, Om Malik described Gravatar as a small project that gives WordPress users the ability to add avatars to their profiles. It is clear from the Gravatar about page that there are far loftier ambitions for the project. Today, an avatar. Tomorrow, Your Identity—Online.

I’ll stop there, rather than speculate about the future of online identity. I’ll add one more post to this series: a wrapup.

Automattic Gets Gravatar – and Valuation

Matt Mullenweg posted yesterday on the Gravatar blog about the acquisition of Gravatar by Automattic. The post isn’t there now. It wasn’t just my imagination: Om Malik linked to the post. Update: Matt’s post is back.

Here’s what I remember Matt saying: Gravatar is great; it is, or might be, having trouble scaling; Automattic is really good at scaling; so Automattic acquired Gravatar; the Gravatar code has been moved to Automattic’s servers.

There are posts on the acquisition at: Matt’s blog; the WordPress.com blog; Read/Write Web; Mashable.

The last of these is less about the acquisition, and more about the rumor that Automattic is valued in the $150 million to $300 million range. The same rumor/post has it that Automattic has suitors, and that its investors would like to see it say yes to one of them.