I know why they bought this. Hell I tried to buy blo.gs last year. Good move VeriSign but clear the air. Here is their attempt to clear the air...
Word is out, and it’s true: VeriSign has acquired the assets of Dave Winer’s weblogs.com. I’m sure Dave will have plenty to say on the subject, but weblogs.com this past year has reached a point where Dave needed to either a) invest significant capital into the development of Weblogs 2.0 – a ping server to handle the next several years of traffic growth, b) sell it to someone else who would do the same, or c) watch as the current system slowly (or maybe quickly) succumbed to the ever-growing stream of pings. Last Thursday weblogs.com processed just under 2 million (1.96M) pings for the day. When we started talking with Dave, a couple months back, the ping totals were barely half of that, and the load even then on the servers made pinging weblogs a chancy proposition during peak posting times (late morning and mid-evening in the US). For a long time, ping servers could be stood up as a single box running on a fast business DSL connection. Those days have passed at least for the popular ping servers; pings are well on their way to requiring serious infrastructure.
That’s where VeriSign comes in. Not only are we running the DNS Registry and the largest TLDs (.com/.net), we handle hundreds of millions of transactions every month in the areas of mobile telephony, ecommerce payments, and instant messaging among other things. As we look ahead a few years, we see a future in which pings are generated not just by the millions per day, but by the tens and hundreds of millions. The blogosphere will continue to grow – rapidly – but we already note signs that RSS and the mechanics of feed-based publishing will extend well beyond the blogging perimeter, and be adopted as an enabling technology in areas like mainstream media publishing and corporate data distribution. In short, we believe that it won’t be long before terms like ping, feed, and trackback become part of the conventional lexicon for Internet publishing as a whole, not just the realm of blogs.
That’s an exciting view of the future, with a host of new opportunities for delivering network services in a user-friendly (and often user-powered) way. In order for that to happen though, there’s a lot of work to be done underneath the application layer. The blogosphere has benefited from a burst of innovations and advances in blogging tools, aggregation services, and social networking applications. The plumbing underneath all this activity hasn’t kept up, however. In the area of pings and ping servers, we have what it takes to keep up with the vigorous growth “up the stack”.
Pings, as their number grows and grows, start to look a lot like the other kinds of messaging operations we run. It’s what we excel at.
Our Vision for Weblogs.com
First, we want to see weblogs.com remain what it is, and maintain how it works for the long term. There’s enormous value for the ecosystem in realizing Dave’s original vision for his ping server: a free, standards-based service that is easy to use, and effective in signaling to the world at large that you’ve submitted new content into the system. Here are some attributes that we intend to preserve and extend for weblogs.com:1. Free
Basic pings, the messages processed by weblogs.com, will remain free to submit, and free to retrieve from the service. Over time, we plan to offer value-added services to publishers and consumers that we can charge a fee for, in much the same way companies like Yahoo! provide basic email services for free, and offer premium “upgrades” for a fee (e.g. extra storage, domain hosting, integrated website, etc.) But pings will remain free; our goal is to make weblogs.com the best, most widely used ping server available.2. Open
We are strong believers in standards and open computing. We’ll keep the XML-RPC format Dave Winer built weblogs.com around, and add to it, with additional services that leverage and extend the usefulness of pings. In all cases, we endorse open formats, freely available, freely implementable by the rest of the community. Competing services are a good thing – ultimately they will provide a much stronger basis for innovation and growth in the ecosystem. We want to excel in our execution and implementation of our services, rather than building a walled garden around a proprietary platform.3. Solid
We have the skills, resources and experience in highly-scaled, high-performance infrastructure to deploy ping server services that will serve the blogosphere (and beyond) for the next stages of growth. As latency and accuracy become increasingly important issues for the blogosphere, weblogs.com will provide a reliable “dial-tone” for sending and receiving publishing signals on the Internet. Like other high quality infrastructure, we expect that over time pings and related services from VeriSign will become transparent – it just works, so often and so well that you won’t give it much thought in the future.4. Informative
I know from talking to Dave Winer that this was part of his vision, if not part of his current implementation, but we would like to make weblogs.com – the website – a useful destination for checking in on the infrastructure side of the blogosphere. We anticipate it being a handy place to check in for aggregated metrics: how many pings were processed today? How many feeds are active in the last week? How many different languages are being used for ping submission? There’s a great number of stats and measurements we can deliver that we’d find useful as members of the blogosphere. We think you will too.What Happens Now?
Weblogs.com version 2.0 will be a significant improvement in performance and features, but will remain fully backwards compatible. If your publishing tools are configured to ping weblogs.com, you should not have to change anything. Everything will just continue to work, only faster, and all of the time. As we develop additional services, we’ll do our best to make sure they are easy and reliable to use in the tools of your choice.
As for additional services, there’s a wide variety of services that we’re looking at and working on right now, but will focus on one that we’re committed to in the near term and believe is a compelling problem for the blogosphere in general: blog spam. If you read back through my previous posts a ways its not hard to deduce that we spend a lot of time thinking about this problem. I noted this morning searching for something on Technorati that they are telling us that we can search more than 18 million blogs now. I believe that’s true, but only if we’re fairly charitable in what we’d call a blog.
We’ve just begun doing some analysis on just how many blogs out there are real – the work of real humans crafting posts – rather than simply splogs – web pages that are generated automatically by scripts and programs to look just like (or much like) real blogs, but serve only as a place to park keywords that will hopefully be found in a search, and advertisements that hopefully will be clicked on by humans who happen to somehow land on that page. In talking to Google, they can confirm what our initial scan tells us: there are an enormous number of splogs out there, and the number is growing faster than the number of real blogs. By a good margin.
This problem is fraught with many of the same problems that plague the email world in its struggle against spam: Who is the source? What is the content about? Is it a copy? What does its distribution look like? Is this purely a solicitation? These are not easy questions, and a robust solution is not readily available. However, at the infrastructure level, very little is currently being done, and there are remedies that can be deployed that will provide significant, if not thorough relief. As a first “killer app” to deploy on top of weblogs.com ping services, we’d like to make progress in improving the “signal-to-noise ratio” in the blogosphere. Does that mean censorship? No. As above, we’re committed to maintaining the integrity of the free and open ping stream, in all its wild and chaotic glory. But we believe that many will want to take advantage of filtering services – screen out the splogs based on a threshold value in the analysis – in much the same way that mail users see value in spam filters for their email inbox.
That’s a tough task, and one we won’t be able to make much progress on alone. We’re already working with a number of parties in the ecosystem on this subject, and believe that as part of a community effort, VeriSign can help lead the way to much better “signal” at the infrastructure layer of the blogosphere. Which will improve the user experience for everyone. Which is why we got involved in the first place.