VeriSign Acquires Weblogs.com, Declares War on ‘Splogs’

VeriSign has acquired Weblogs.com, the primary weblog "ping" service tracking how often weblogs are updated. The deal capped a wild Thursday in the blogosphere, which started with the announcement that America Online has bought Weblogs Inc., one of the most prominent blogging networks.

While the AOL-Weblogs Inc. deal is focused on content, VeriSign's purchase of Weblogs.com from founder Dave Winer is all about infrastructure. "For a long time, ping servers could be stood up as a single box running on a fast business DSL connection," noted VeriSign's Mike Graves on the company's Infrablog. "Those days have passed at least for the popular ping servers; pings are well on their way to requiring serious infrastructure. That’s where VeriSign comes in."

But there's more to this deal than beefing up the Weblogs.com ping service, which currently handles nearly 2 million pings per day. VeriSign is developing RSS security products for the corporate market, and Weblogs.com can be an asset in that effort. "There’s a wide variety of services that we’re looking at and working on right now, but will focus on one that we’re committed to in the near term and believe is a compelling problem for the blogosphere in general: blog spam," Graves writes. "As a first 'killer app' to deploy on top of weblogs.com ping services, we’d like to make progress in improving the 'signal-to-noise ratio' in the blogosphere."

When most blogs are updated, they send a ping via XML-RPC to Weblogs.com, which generates a list of the latest blog posts. This data is monitored by search engines like Google, as well as blog and RSS search tools like Feedster and Bloglines, which then can spider the updated sites to keep their listings current.

Winer's decision to sell marks a change of heart from last year, when he publicly sought help reprogramming the scripts that run Weblogs.com. "What I don't want: Offers from companies to buy weblogs.com," Winer wrote last December 2. "It's important that this resource stay independent. The only reason companies would want to pay so much for this service is if they planned to take it private."

VeriSign insists that Weblogs.com will remain open, but says it plans to layer paid services atop the basic service. "Basic pings, the messages processed by weblogs.com, will remain free to submit, and free to retrieve from the service," Graves writes. "Over time, we plan to offer value-added services to publishers and consumers that we can charge a fee for, in much the same way companies like Yahoo! provide basic email services for free, and offer premium “upgrades” for a fee (e.g. extra storage, domain hosting, integrated website, etc.)."

In an update on his Scripting News blog, Winer acknowledged that many bloggers may have concerns about VeriSign. "No doubt we'll have an interesting discussion about this in the blogosphere, and I hope a productive one, and that we'll all find a way to work with Verisign," wrote Winer. "I think there's reason to believe they can and will do a much better job of running the ping center than I have been able to, and this is the perfect example of individual innovators (myself in this case) working with large companies in ways that leverage the strength of both."