The Argument *For* Software as a Service

Josh Catone of wrote a really interesting post the other day titled  “The Argument Against Software as a Service“.  I left a comment, but I didn’t register and looks like my comment might be stuck in some moderation queue, so figured I’d blog my response here just in case.

Josh makes the larger argument that hosted/SaaS services could potentially go out of business creating a crisis for those who use it:

The more you rely on third parties to get your work done, the more difficult it becomes to stay afloat if those you rely on run into trouble. SaaS applications have allowed business owners to gain access to high quality software at lower prices and with a high level of convenience, but at what potential risk?

If all your customer and sales lead information is in, what happens if goes under? That might create a mess that’s harder to clean up than if your CRM data was stored locally, for example. Using Google Docs might save you a bundle on site licenses for Office, but if all your internal documentation is online, what happens if Google decides Docs isn’t worth it and axes the product line? It’s something to consider, certainly.

I agree that this is a concern.  But I believe that the really important question people should ask when selecting hosted services / SaaS is “can I extract/sync with my own data  and can run my own Open Source version of this service ?”

If the answer is “yes” than the risk is entirely mitigated, and the upside is huge.

A few quick comments below on how we answer “yes” to these questions at, and why the hosted/SaaS model does make sense for many individuals and businesses.

On users can always:

1) Extract a complete set of their data via a full XML export.  We don’t do anything to lock-in our customers.  It’s their data period – and it should be a 1-click process to get a complete copy of all the posts, comments, pages, etc.
2) Sync their data. provides a full XMLRPC API to sync all data, and many users take advantage of 3rd party tools, especially on the desktop client side, to manage their WordPress from outside of WordPress, creating a complete duplicate set of data on their local machine.
3) Run their own self-hosted WordPress locally or on a 3rd party host and easily import all their content & themes from  Users can simply head-over to to download the software, or select to install WordPress with nearly any hosting provider.  This works the other way too – self-hosted WordPress sites can easily be imported into .
4) Ensure link/SEO continuity by mapping their domain on (i.e. so if they ever leave our service all the google indexing and links will continue to work.

And as importantly, since is built with WordPress, an Open Source project, there is security and comfort in knowing that a huge community,  numbering in the tens of thousands,  is involved with WordPress.  And even if our company and would somehow fails to live up to our users’ needs, the WordPress project will continue to thrive.

Year One at Automattic

Wild to think that it’s already been a year since I posted “Thanks Dow Jones, Hello Automattic” on my very first day at Automattic.

Thinking about the last year, it’s easy to sum up the experience so far with just two words: Amazing & Rewarding. A bit cheesy, I know, but 100% true 🙂

My other strong feeling about the last year is that above all else, people matter. When I think back to some of my M&A work in prior jobs, and various due-diligence projects where we did a deep dive on a company, I always held to the belief that beyond a stellar P&L, smart biz model, and various technology assets — what made a company truly great were the people.

And in that regard I’ve been fortunate in my current role at Automattic to be surrounded by smart, talented and motivated people who are also truly the kind of people you want to hang out with and play pool 🙂

Lastly with these kind of anniversaries, it’s always fun to look back and see what’s changed. Here are a few stats for from when I joined VS today:

May/June 2007 – Biggest traffic day: 8.07 million pageviews
May/June 2008 – Biggest traffic day: 35.5 million pageviews

May/June 2007 – Number of blogs on A bit over 1 million
May/June 2008 – Number of blogs on 3.36+ million

May/June 2007 – Unique visitors to 40 million
May/June 2008 – Unique visitors to 168 million

And as they say — the best is yet to come. Now With Identicons !

On right now, and in the next release of self hosted WordPress – version 2.6 –  you have a few extra settings that relate to avatars:

What’s cool is that for people who haven’t yet added an avatar, like my friend Rama, instead of the “mystery man” icon, I am now showing an Identicon.

What’s an Identicon you ask ? “An Identicon is a visual representation of a hash value, usually of the IP address, serving to identify a user of a computer system” ( source Wikipedia ).  In addition, the Identicon will show the same generated avatar each time for that person without an avatar.

I’ve turned it on on my blog, and you can see it in action in this post.  If you blog on, you can access these new option in Dashboard > Settings > Discussion.

More info posted by Matt over on the blog.