While many were paying attention to the acquisition of Weblogs, Inc., Jason Calcanis' mildly interesting blogging company being acquired by AOL for $25 million, another much more important company, Dave Winer's Weblogs.com, was acquired by Verisign, (Note: according to Dave Winer, the amount of acquisition suggested in this article is incorrect, but the rationale is dead on.)
For those of you unfamiliar with the history of RSS, Dave Winer is the one who carried the RSS torch forward after Netscape, and helped it reached the ubiquitous deployment this protocol now enjoys. Dave's more recent endeavor in Weblogs.com is what's known as a "ping server" which is what blog sites notify when a new blog or post is created and a means of advising that they have content to be syndicated. In addition to Weblogs.com, there's Ping-O-Matic which is run as a non-profit service by Matt Mullenweg, founder and creator of WordPress, as well as PubSub, Technorati and Feedster, who all operate their own ping servers.
Weblogs.com and Ping-O-Matic are actually "uber ping servers" in that they notify all of the other ping servers once they are notified. From a blog developer's perspective, it's the difference between having to ping one server that tells all of the others of the ping versus having to notify each of the separate ping servers individually.
What's important to realize however, is that this part of the blogosphere infrastructure is a critical component to the ability to syndicate. For example, I've had some involvement with a company that offered blogging capabilities but didn't ping any ping servers, and hence none of its blogs were going outside of the pages they were being created on. Somewhat defeats the purpose of blogging and syndicating content, if the content isn't being syndicated.
However, ping servers to-date are being managed by early stage companies that are all at some level of bootstrapping, and not until this acquisition by Verisign, has a serious infrastructure company jumped into the fray, though several have circled around the bait.
In my initial thoughts deliberating whom a service Weblogs.com would offer the greatest value to, comScore or Nielsen seemed the logical candidates because of the valuable blogosphere traffic information they could yield from such a service, an area that I find these companies slightly behind the curve on. They're still leveraging the Web page traffic and not the RSS traffic.
Today, there's no clear business model for ping servers, other than as a means to provide a good blog search service. Note, why Technorati, PubSub and Feedster have these. Note also, why a research services company could also benefit from this. However, as a standalone business, nothing yet has emerged. It will be interesting to see how Stratton Sclavos and his team at Verisign position this service and what leverage they expect to gain from its acquisition. From a technical perspective, this service will be a cake walk for them to operate as it appears that there are only approximately 1 to 2 million pings per day, versus 250,000 DNS calls per second that Verisign currently deals with today.
Note, Verisign has been making some very interesting moves lately, this only being one of the latest, while also coyly exiting the payments processing business with the sale of that division to eBay's Paypal. Hmmm, what could these folks at Verisign be thinking? ;-) Keep an eye on them, they're very smart. I'm betting on some activity occurring in the identity space as they're also very well positioned to play a meaningful role there.
Update note: there's some more good information on this subject relating to Verisign's acquisition of Moreover, which I also missed…doh! (Funny, I heard both ends of this news but not the whole thing put together, as someone mentioned to me that Verisign was doing another acquisition and someone else mentioned that Moreover was to be acquired by a company yet to be named.) Read more about all of this on PaidContent here.