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Automattic Buys Scroll Kit, A Code-Free Website Builder That Once Got Legal Heat From The NYT

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WordPress maker Automattic’s acquisition spree to build out its platform continues apace. Today comes news that it has acquired Scroll Kit, a New York-based startup that had developed a platform for people to build websites without needing to know any code, or, in the words of co-founders Cody Brown and Kate Ray announcing the news, “a process for making the web that was more like drawing on a piece of paper.”

The Scroll Kit editor is being shut down in three months as its co-founders integrate some of the features into WordPress. “I can’t go into details about what we’re working on but I can say that we’re shutting down Scroll Kit so we can work on the core WordPress.com product,” Brown tells me. “We’re drawn to WordPress because it’s an opportunity to take the best features inside Scroll Kit and reach an audience that is many magnitudes larger.”

“You’ll be able to download all of your work in the next six months and after that, scrolls will continue to be online but the site will become read only,” the pair write on the Scroll Kit website announcing the news.

The price has not been disclosed and all that Brown tells us is, “We are very happy with the financial terms of the deal.” This is Automattic’s 14th acquisition, with the previous one being Longreads earlier this month.

The site had raised $225,000 from the likes of the Knight Foundation, and its advisers included media industry academic/supremo Clay Shirky.

But it also had a more controversial string on its bow: Scroll Kit is the company that received a cease and desist letter from the New York Times after it managed to rebuild its much-celebrated, much-labored Snow Fall interactive experience in an hour.

(It was done to demonstrate how awesome Scroll Kit was; but the experiment was short-lived since the startup didn’t have the means to fight the NYT. The founders make a wink-wink reference to this chapter of their history in their acquisition announcement, where, among the various well-known and less-known people they thank, they include “The New York Times legal department for their jurisprudence.”)

For Automattic, Scroll Kit will give it some technology that can be used to enhance ways that people can use WordPress to create websites. While today there are thousands of ready-made themes that you can use for a WordPress-powered site, what Scroll Kit will do is give users the ability to add even more creativity to the process, if they so choose.

And that facility is something that applies not just to average, non-technical types, but also those who do know code, but don’t know design.

As Ryan pointed out when he covered the startup two years ago, “While the tool proves that you don’t need to know how to code to build something beautiful, the real point is to show that even if you do know how to code, that doesn’t mean you will be able to build a great website.”