Automattic Acquires IntenseDebate

IntenseDebate, a centralised commenting service similar to the Disqus service used on this site, has been acquired by WordPress parent company Automattic.

From the announcement on the IntenseDebate site:

So what does this mean for you, our valued users? A couple of things:
1.) We will be temporarily going back into private beta. This won’t affect our current users, but new installs will require an invite code. This is just to give us a little time to ramp up the hardware and get our ducks in a row as we join the Automattic team.

2.) You’ll be seeing IntenseDebate a lot more often. We’re really excited about the distribution possibilities this opens up, so expect to see our comment system and use your IntenseDebate profile on a lot more blogs.

3.) You can look forward to tighter integration with some of the other Automattic joints including Akismet and Gravatar.

But don’t worry!
You will still be able to use IntenseDebate on Typepad, Tumblr, Blogger, Movable Type, and other platforms with more to come! We will continue to improve our comment system and your commenters’ experience. IntenseDebate will continue to enhance and encourage conversation on your blog and build your reader community.

This isn’t a surprising acquisition.  There have been rumours about Automattic buying a commenting service for a while now, with some suggesting that Disqus was also a possible target.  Matt Mullenweg said on his post about the purchase that they’re going to keep the service platform agnostic (for now at least) but they’ll also roll a lot of the features into the hosted and self-hosted versions of WordPress.

Seeing as they already own Akismet, which processes a large chunk of the blogosphere’s comments, ID will give them access to even more of the comments posted on the web. On the upside this will mean that they will be able to improve Akismet even more by processing the additional data, but it also means the one company has an extraordinary amount of information on what is posted on the internet.  The potential for this to be a privacy risk or for them to sell this to marketers is a little bit disturbing, but so far Automattic haven’t given us a reason to be concerned.

However, similar to Google, they are getting by on a lot of community good will. And also similar to Google, they’re now in a position to really abuse that good will if they saw fit.  Lets hope that doesn’t happen

Update: Here’s the response to the announcement from Disqus

Today, Automattic (the team behind the WordPress platform) announced their acquisition of IntenseDebate, a competing and similarly-focused comment service. From all of us at Disqus: congrats to the ID team on joining the Automattic family. We’re fans of WordPress here (this blog uses it), so I think it’s good that they’re beginning to pay more attention to the comments.

So what does this mean for us? The Disqus comment system is still the largest third-party comment system on WordPress, yet those blogs represent under 5% of all websites using Disqus. We pride ourselves on being an independent cross-platform service. Disqus will continue to innovate and provide the best discussion experience on blogs. Our company’s entire focus is on increasing the number and quality of your comments and that will never change.

As a true third-party system, Disqus can be open and extensible to other services and platforms, as well as offer unique functionality not limited by a single platform. I’m looking forward to the future of discussion and I hope you’ll experience it with Disqus.