Matt Mullenweg announced today at Web Summit in Dublin that Automattic has acquired Code for the People, a UK-based WordPress development agency and longtime WordPress.com VIP partner. The acquisition adds all six members of the company, including co-founders Simon Dickson and Simon Wheatley, to the WordPress.com VIP team.
“It’s a fairly natural transition for us,” Dickson told the Tavern. “We were part of Automattic’s VIP Featured Partner program from day one – so we’ve known a lot of these people for literally years.”
Code for the People (CFTP) began talking to Automattic in the spring of this year on a very informal basis, but once the team decided it was a realistic prospect, things started to speed up. In joining the VIP team, CFTP will say goodbye to their days of designing and developing websites.
Dickson anticipates that they will be joining in with what the VIP team is already doing, except in European hours. “The team exists to provide expertise and products to support the world’s biggest publishers, whether that’s on WordPress.com or self-hosted systems,” he said.
As new Automattic employees, the team will help to expand VIP’s reach into the European market. “We’re looking forward to bringing an additional perspective to the team, based on our own experiences on the front line, and in the European market,” Dickson said.
“Personally, I’ll be looking for ways to help develop the European ecosystem. It was something we talked about in Sofia: a lot of WP agencies would like some kind of network, formal or informal, to share ideas and experiences. I’m hoping it’s something I can do as part of my new role.”
The acquisition includes CFTP’s Babble plugin, an open source multilingual tool that Mullenweg counted as one of the key parts of the deal, according to TechCrunch. Babble will continue to be maintained by Automattic, the details of which are still being fleshed out.
“We’ve been really encouraged by the prominence of the multilingual question in recent weeks and months,” Dickson said. “It’s an area where we know WordPress needs to do better; and it’s been great to see people recognizing Babble as, potentially, the most core-friendly way of answering it.”
Code for the People is a company that was built on the principle of giving back to open source platforms. with employees regularly contributing to WordPress core. At the end of September it was announced that CFTP developer John Blackbourn would be leading WordPress 4.1, a commitment the company made long before the acquisition deal was sealed.
“We felt it was important for a small team, even as small as ours, to stand up and say yes – the future of WordPress is that important to us,” Dickson said. Blackbourn will continue leading the release as an Automattic employee.
The founders of CFTP never set out to get acquired. “Genuinely, we formed Code For The People as a means to an end. We wanted to support each other’s efforts to do interesting things with WordPress, and to make WordPress better as a result,” Dickson said.
“Building a successful business was a happy bi-product of that, but it was never the primary motivation. We chose the name Code For The People very deliberately. It was always there to keep us honest, and ensure we stayed true to our mission.”
It’s a bittersweet day as CFTP bids goodbye to many of their clients and the brand they worked to build. Dickson hopes to bring that same dedication to VIP clients at Automattic with a focus on expanding its services in Europe.
The Code for the People brand will be retired. If you check out the farewell message on the company’s website, you’ll notice that it was built using Ever After, a wedding theme by WordPress.com. Although the team is giving up the strong brand name they’ve created, they hope to carry on their shared love of open source software as employees of Automattic.