From a business perspective, it’s a bunch of blogs migrating from one free platform to another. But from an infrastructure perspective, Microsoft’s decision to close Windows Live Spaces and offer its millions of bloggers an “upgrade” to WordPress.com has larger implications.
Microsoft announced its Live Spaces transition plan yesterday at TechCrunch Disrupt. Live Spaces users will have the option of migrating their blogs to the WordPress.com service from Automattic. Microsoft says it has worked closely with WordPress.com to design a seamless transition process. But despite Microsoft’s language about upgrades and partnerships, the reality is that Live Spaces users have six months to move their blogs or have them deleted.
More Capacity for WordPress.com?
Microsoft says there are 30 million active users of Live Spaces, but other estimates are considerably lower. What’s clear is that the WordPress.com service will add a large chunk of new users to the approximately 10 million blogs it currently hosts. That will mean more infrastructure.
“Given that this effectively doubles WordPress’s user base, there is a lot of work to be done,” wrote WordPress lead developer Matt Mullenweg. “But I’m excited by the challenge.”
The WordPress.com service is hosted by Layered Technologies, with much of its infrastructure housed in the provider’s Chicago data center (see video).
Microsoft has clearly decided that there’s limited upside to innovation in blogging platforms. In announcing its plans to shutter Live Spaces, it acknowledged that the platform’s features were falling behind the offerings at WordPress.com.
Still, it was a little disorienting to read Microsoft’s announcement that it was migrating millions of sites from Windows Server to a platform powered entirely by open source software, and describing it as an “upgrade.”
It’s likely that the Live Spaces migration will impact the Netcraft Web Server Survey, which tracks market share for leading server products. WordPress.com uses the nginx server, which currently powers about 5 percent of sites found by Netcraft, a state that figures to gain as Microsoft’s share declines.
Live Spaces’ demise also serves as a reminder that the free hosting services offered by the largest tech companies haven’t crushed competition, as was feared by some in the web hosting sector. “Four years ago I was fairly worried as every internet giant (Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Google) had a hosted blogging service,” wrote Mullenweg. “Now only Blogger remains, and is firmly in our sights.”