WordPress.com, growth, issues and the road ahead
What we have here today is Matt Mullenweg, who runs the entire WordPress show via Automattic, making good on his promise and answering a couple of pesky questions I had for him regarding WordPress.com.
Interesting comments from the answers include content filtering (I mean it as a positive, than as a negative, considering how little adult content on WordPress.com gets on to the homepages, while some of the best adult blogs I know are hosted on it), the usage of a CDN called Netli for content caching and rough numbers regarding usage in India, which is by far the highest I’ve ever seen anywhere.
If you are keen on helping blogging in India in the local languages, they are looking for translators.
And as an interesting aside, this is the first interview-ish sort of a thing I’ve done in a long time, that too after I’d hung up my journalistic shoes about three years ago and that too on my blog. Strange to see how the tables have turned.
Meanwhile, here’s a big thanks to Matt. Read on:
1) How big is the uptake for WordPress.com in India (Since you guys are one of the oddest web ops in terms of sharing internal numbers, it would be nice if you could give the break up in terms of sign ups, regular users (average 3-4 logins a week), and probably a percentage figure and numbers of the traffic originating from India)?
We don’t have a breakdown for sign ups in that detail but Google analytics does say we get about 221,984 page views from India, mostly from Maharashtra. The best I can tell we have a few thousand blogs that self-classify as being in an Indian language like Hindi.
2) Do you have more goodies lined up for India, beyond improving on the serving infrastructure? I remember seeing a lot of blogs in the heydays of Blogger with a lot of bloggers blogging in the local languages. Are you planning to reach out to these bloggers?
I’m very open to suggestions in that regard, the obvious things after making the service faster is local support forums and a better translation of the interface. (People can donate translations at translate.wordpress.com.)
3) Is the VSNL IP that we’ve seen before just a co-located server you have in the IDC or is it a part of the infrastructure of a CDN? Or even better, is Automattic now getting into the CDN business?
It’s part of a dynamic CDN called Netli, which accelerates our dynamic pages and provides standard CDN static caching stuff as well.
4) How well is WordPress.com dealing with its current growth? After all, the code base you have for the framework is still the single user/multi-user WordPress installation. Is it stable enough for me to dump five years worth of blogging on to the framework?
The growth has surprised everyone, even myself. We now regularly break 4 million page views a day and server close to 350/reqs a second. (Non-cached.) I think our current infrastructure is in a very good place right now, thanks mostly to the work of Barry. We’ve got a robust setup in Dallas and are aggressively expanding in other DCs in the US.
5) Even when the framework handles the stress well, there are other factors you need to keep an eye out for: storage, bandwidth, billing (for premium accounts) etc. Do you guys have the leeway to scale it to handle, let us assume, a 4x growth across all those variables?
All of that is pretty easy, except for storage which can be tricky to synchronize cross-datacenter. Right now we have a method that works well, but I’d like something cleaner before we get into terabytes of files.
6) WordPress.com has stopped redirecting all requests to wp-login.php to the encrypted SSL URL. Not quite a smart thing to do, you’d agree, even if it has sped up the pages a lot. You could probably do what Yahoo! Google and Microsoft does and keep the authentication part forced to redirect to the SSL version and switch back to plain HTTP for the other admin pages.
Yep, that’s definitely something we’re looking at. I had no idea when we originally added SSL that it would be such a pain.
7) Why was the SSL option dropped anyway? Were you guys using an add on crypto processor or was it being handled by the acceleration appliance?
It had nothing to do with processing speed, our dashboard traffic is light enough that it wasn’t a problem at all, it all had to do with user speed. The increased latency and sucky client caching of SSL content made the admin interface just crawl, especially for international folks, and in our testing we found nothing helped as much as just turning off SSL.
8) Why LiteSpeed?
It’s the fastest and most robust web server we’ve tested. The only thing I dislike about it is that it’s not open source, and we’re seriously considering replacing it purely for philosophical reasons. It’s the only non-OS app in our stack.
9) Will WordPress.com ever give up PHP/MySql and move into the Java scheme of things? At this point an application server would surely look like an enticing prospect to you?
Never, that would be the biggest waste of time.
10) Is there any sort of content filtering on WordPress.com ? There are plenty of sex blogs and adult content being served from the framework, but these don’t tend to show up normally on the regular WordPress.com listing pages.
Yes we pretty aggressively filter mature blogs from public listings to try and keep the front page and admin areas PG-rated.