WordPress.com Launches Restaurant Vertical As It Pushes Platform Well Beyond Basic Blogging

Restaurants are kind of notorious for having painful web experiences — either with websites that are horribly basic and out of date, or needlessly souped up with music and Flash animation. So it was good news today when web publishing stalwart WordPress.com rolled out a new set of templates specifically aimed at helping restaurants build clean, useful websites that can be easily accessed from both desktop and mobile devices.

It turns out that this is just the latest in a series of vertical launches WordPress.com has made to explicitly spur expansion beyond its signature blogging specialty (TechCrunch is one of the many sites powered by WordPress) and into building more general websites for all types of businesses. Special WordPress templates for weddings, bands, and cities have all been launched in recent months.

So we invited Toni Schneider, the CEO of WordPress.com’s parent company Automattic, to come by TechCrunch TV today to give us the full run-down on what makes WordPress.com/restaurants different from the product’s core offering and how this plays into its larger strategy. He’s a really sharp guy, so you should watch the whole thing, but here are a few interesting points he made.

The growth into new niche places had been led by WordPress’ users, who have long been using the WordPress system to make all types of sites well beyond blogs. Schneider said:

“We’re just following the lead of the community… both WordPress.org [which is] the open source version that you download and run yourself, and WordPress.com which we run as a service. WordPress as a whole started in blogging, personal blogging, and then went to professional blogging, then it became just a content management system so people started building all kinds of websites.

And now, those websites get more personalized into msall business areas like restaurants… people are already using WordPress for these things, we’re just now making it easier for people so it turns from a do it yourself kind of system, to where you sign up and it just works.”

When it comes to reach and the competitive landscape, WordPress is in a unique spot. It’s a relative giant when viewed against other web development and content management platforms, but there is still a lot of room to grow. Schneider broke down the numbers for us:

“Overall, if you look at the entire Internet and just go down the list at what all the different sites run… 17.4 percent of all sites on the Internet are powered by WordPress. The next number two platform is Joomla, which is around 3 percent, and Drupal is around 2 something. And then, I believe Blogger is number four with one or 1.5 percent.

If you notice, that doesn’t add up to 100 percent. So actually, the majority of the web is still custom made sites that don’t even use a content management system.”

And while that reach puts WordPress on a similar scale to the Facebooks of the world, Automattic as a company is not exactly rushing on the strategic side. The 130-person company is already comfortably profitable, so it has a bit of leeway when it comes to looking at options such as M&A and the public markets. Schneider explained his stance like this:

“Even though we’re very very big from a footprint point traffic point of view, we only have 130 people. So we’ve been able to build all of this without requiring a giant expensive company. So it’s scaling well, the business is profitable, and it’s doing very well.

We’re just continuing to build it out. We’ve been sort of slow and steady over the years. It’s very much like WordPress itself, kind of an organic approach to growing at a steady pace.”