WordPress.com owner Automattic acquires an ActivityPub plug-in so blogs can join the Fediverse

WordPress.com sites now have an easier way to integrate with the Fediverse, including Mastodon. Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, Tumblr and other web publishing tools, is the new owner of the ActivityPub for WordPress plug-in and has also recruited its developer to come work for the company, according to Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg.

The newly acquired plug-in allows WordPress.org and WordPress.com blog owners to reach readers on federated platforms, like the Twitter rival Mastodon and others. Once installed, readers are able to follow the WordPress blogs on their preferred federated platform, view the blog posts and reply with comments. The replies posted to a federated site like Mastodon then become blog post comments.

The developer has been working to improve the plug-in's WordPress integration and add support for threaded comments, among other things, the plug-in's webpage notes.

At present, the ActivityPub plug-in supports federated platforms including Mastodon, Pleroma, Friendica, HubZilla, Pixelfed, SocialHome and Misskey. It's been downloaded more than 35,000 times to date, according to its statistics page.

Image Credits: Automattic

By going in-house with Automattic, the developer, Matthias Pfefferle, will have access to further resources and support to make the plug-in more functional over time. Mullenweg says the plan now is to test and experiment with the plug-in -- much as the company previously did with the Gutenberg editor -- which is the first step to any major changes to the platform.

Mullenweg has been bullish on the promises of the Fediverse -- the decentralized web powered by interconnected servers running open source applications, including the newly popular Mastodon, the Instagram-like Pixelfed and others. Late last year, for example, the CEO said Tumblr would add support for ActivityPub, the protocol that powers Mastodon and other decentralized social apps. However, he had not declared any specific plans for WordPress.com.

The news follows a number of moves by other publishers to embrace the Fediverse. Earlier this month, Medium announced it would launch its own Mastodon server and integrate with ActivityPub. Magazine app Flipboard also announced it was launching its own instance on flipboard.social and integrated with Mastodon so its users could follow Mastodon updates in the Flipboard app.

However, ActivityPub is not the only protocol Automattic is testing, Mullenweg says. The company has also been testing Nostr and Bluesky (or, the AT protocol) -- now powering another Twitter competitor backed by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.

"I'm still curious about Nostr and other protocols," Mullenweg told TechCrunch. "It's all very nascent right now."

Terms of the plug-in's acquisition aren't being disclosed, but this was not a large purchase as the plug-in is a small, one-person operation. The developer will start with Automattic in April, we understand.

Mullenweg also notes his company has not been directly impacted by the SVB crisis but had reached out to various companies and partners with offers to help.