Google gets serious about blogging, Automattic the target?

News broke earlier today that Google has acquired Korean blogging outfit TNC, the company behind the TextCube blogging service.

TNC founder Chang Kim doesn’t disclose the full details of the sale, but speculates that the acquisition may have been motivated by Google’s desire to improve its presence in South Korea, a market the American search giant has struggled in.

The comparison to Automattic is made by Kim himself, and the parallels are obvious: popular blogging platform used by A-List bloggers (65 of the top 100 bloggers in South Korea use it), with an install base of 400,000 users.

In a statement (via VentureBeat, I haven’t found it at time of writing):

Google confirmed the deal Friday morning, saying it wants to “broaden its portfolio of locally-focused products, further encourage creation of openly accessible user-generated content, and improve search experiences of Korean users.” In a statement, it also said it will add “additional resources, via acquisition or otherwise.

The emphasis is mine, but it’s key to looking at the deal past the obvious South Korea market play. Google hasn’t just bought into South Korea, they’ve purchased a platform they can use, either as a standalone product (and we’d presume that it will remain standalone given the numbers and the obvious South Korean benefits) and/ or in conjunction with existing Google properties, such as Blogger for example. Chang Kim mentions in his post that the TextCube platform is more advanced than existing players in offering social networking as part of their blogging platform, so this is another angle to consider.

Automattic as the target

Automattic, the company behind WordPress, is a Google competitor today, and is moving into the social networking space through its acquisition of BuddyPress. Blogger may be the more popular free hosted blogging platform, yet WordPress.com recently passed the 4 million blog mark, and WordPress is the most popular self hosted blogging script. Google doesn’t offer a self hosted blogging platform, and so far their only effort to get into the space, aside from the near ubiquitous Adsense advertising network, is through the still in closed beta offering of Google Friend Connect. Widgets though don’t really deliver presence in the way that a self hosted platform does, and with Automattic controlling WordPress, the integration advantage will never side with Google.

Google now owns a competitor to WordPress the self hosted blogging platform, and to think that they won’t eventually use it outside of South Korea, particularly if it’s as good as some say it is, would be false. They will use it, in one form or another, and suddenly the self hosted blogging market gets interesting again. SixApart is also in the mix, but their core products tend to be upmarket, paid products vs the much lower market share of MovableType, so although Google would compete here, there’s a lot less to lose. Automattic is the company with the most to lose when Google uses this acquisition to get serious in offering an all round suite of blogging tools. If Google has decided it wants to compete in self hosted blogging, Automattic must be the target.

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