Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, announced Tuesday that it is acquiring the team and company behind the popular WooCommerce WordPress plugin.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that lets site owners turn their self-hosted WordPress website into a bonafide online store. Launched in 2011 by WooThemes, WooCommerce has become a force in the ecommerce space.
Not only it is hugely popular in the WordPress community, WooCommerce is huge when it comes to the online store space, powering at least 650,000 online stores.
The entire 55-person Woo team will join Automattic. According to a blog post by CEO and cofounder Matt Mullenweg, this will bring Automattic’s total headcount to 370 people, distributed across 43 countries.
I spoke to Mullenweg about the acquisition and what adding the Woo team means for the future of WordPress and Automattic. He wouldn’t offer up the price of the acquisition, except to say that it is Automattic’s biggest ever and that it is six times as much as any other acquisition.
Automattic raised $160 million in funding last year, bringing it into unicorn club with a valuation of $1.16 billion. WordPress (either hosted or self-hosted) now powers 23% of the web and has become a core framework for publishing.
With the acquisition of WooCommerce, Mullenweg said that this is another step that will help WordPress accomplish its goal of powering even more of the web.
The ultimate goal, he said, is to make it as easy to create your own storefront as it currently is to create your own website or blog with WordPress.
WooCommerce is easy to use — especially in the realm of ecommerce solutions — but it still requires some hand-holding during the setup process. Mullenweg said that one of the goals moving forward will be to make it easier to setup WooCommerce. He also hinted at 1-click install solutions as being on the horizon.
WooCommerce is big business
Mullenweg also made a point to say that WooCommerce is an extremely profitable company. The core WooCommerce plugin is free but the company makes money selling plugin extensions, storefront themes and support. Sources close to the company said that WooCommerce’s revenues are in the eight figures.
That’s serious money and this is just with four years of development. Anecdotally, I’ve met a number of different web developers over the years who have increasingly added WooCommerce to their repertoire or focus on integration areas for their own services.
Easy-to-build shopping solutions is increasingly a selling point for web solutions. WordPress.com competitors such as Squarespace have storefront modules and there are also hosted solutions from companies such as Shopify, Big Cartel and Bigcommerce.
Mullenweg things that WooCommerce has a unique role in the larger ecommerce space, in part because of its open source nature and its broad community of users and developers, but also because it fills a hole for a a solution that can be wholly controlled an run by the user.
That same type of “community content domain” is an area WordPress has excelled at in publishing for over a decade and Mullenweg thinks this will be important to the future.
Automattic turns ten years old next month and Mullenweg told me that he’s never been more excited about the future and potential of the web than he is right now.
What happens now
Mullenweg said that starting now, the WooCommerce team will have full access to Automattic’s broader resources of tech and people.
In the short term, not a lot will change — the extensions, themes and add-ons for WooCommerce will continue as usual. Mullenweg said to stay tuned for some plans in the next few months, especially when it comes to making WooCommerce easier to use.
As for when users can expect to find WooCommerce options on WordPress.com, Mullenweg said that won’t happen until next year. The focus for now will be on making it easier to install and integrate.
Mullenweg will also be hosting a Q&A on his blog regarding the acquisition, so users and developers can ask questions about what this means for them.