Matt Mullenweg Becomes Automattic CEO As Toni Schneider Shifts Focus To New Products

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WordPress creator and Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg is taking over as CEO of the company, it was announced today. He takes over for Toni Schneider, who has been CEO of Automattic for just over eight years now, and who helped turn the company that owns and operates WordPress into what Om Malik notes is now a billion dollar company.

In an interview, I asked whether this has something to do with Mullenweg’s bold goal of powering a majority of the websites on the Internet. Since September, WordPress has gone from powering 19.9 percent of websites to 21 percent today. Mullenweg said he’s pleased with their progress, however, calling it “a game of inches.”

“The strategy is going well,” he said in an interview. “This change isn’t really a change in the strategy. If there was something that we thought would help us four months ago, we of done it then the same as we would today.”

Schneider will remain at Automattic, and he’ll essentially occupy the same role that Mullenweg leaves vacant as he steps up to take the reins – one of product-building. Mullenweg says in his official post on the subject that in fact, there was already a lot of fluidity between the two roles anyway, and that he has experience in the top spot because of a sabbatical that Schneider took last year.

Schneider will be working on some exciting “new projects,” Mullenweg explained, and while he wouldn’t comment on anything specific, he did offer some hints.

“The power of the web is not in centralization, it’s not in closed systems or anything like that,” he said. “It’s in its open nature and that’s what allowed it to flourish for the first 10 or 15 years.” He added that Automattic has always been “sort of like a Proctor & Gamble” with multiple brands working under one, and suggested that new products will fit under that model while adhering to those principles about the open web.

Under Schneider, WordPress.com grew to become the 8th largest website on the web, the departing CEO notes in his own blog post on the management shift, and its publishing platform is first in the world.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Malone & Company Photography.