Automattic is seeing a steady growth in the number of sites using its WordPress content management system — 27 percent of the internet uses it today — and there’s no shortage of die-hard fans and users who gather in towns and cities around the world to support one another. The money gleaned from these conferences numbers in the millions and Automattic wants to put it to good use — supporting those who need it.

At the annual WordCamp US gathering, company chief executive Matt Mullenweg presented his “State of the Word” address in which he announced that next year, Automattic’s WordCamp Central will be transformed into a public-benefit corporation (PBC) which will be an evolution of the existing WordPress Foundation.

Mullenweg also revealed that the company plans on expanding its HackerOne-powered bug bounty program soon, and that there will be a “Growth Council” designed to accelerate adoption of open source technology around the world.

Map highlighting the places where WordCamp events were held in 2016.

Above: Map highlighting the places where WordCamp events were held in 2016.

Image Credit: Screenshot

In 2016, 115 WordCamp conferences across 41 countries, an increase from 89 last year. More than 30,000 tickets were sold. This highlights an appeal these encounters have on WordPress aficionados and results in a lot of money being generated. Mullenweg remarked that Automattic estimates this year about $4.3 million will be brought in, an increase from $2.8 million in 2015, with 99.9 percent coming in from WordCamps alone.

However, because of some legal and tax restrictions with its WordPress Foundation, Automattic is going to separate WordCamp from the foundation and transform it into WordPress Community Support, its own company that is designated as a PBC. As such, it will be dedicated towards supporting “like-minded” non-profits, such as Hack the Hood, Black Girls Code, and the Internet Archive. What’s more, the plan is to also produce educational seminars and workshops in underdeveloped countries and develop hackathons to create websites for non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

WordPress Community Support will be fully-owned by the WordPress Foundation.

Automattic is transforming WordCamp into a public benefit corporation (PBC) to support like-minded non-profits.

Above: Automattic is transforming WordCamp into a public benefit corporation (PBC) to support like-minded non-profits.

Image Credit: Automattic

Security is also a major theme Automattic wants to tackle in the next year, which has started to be obvious based on Mullenweg’s post last year highlighting the company’s impending push towards SSL certification for hosting providers and features. In keeping with this theme, the company also shared that it will be doubling down on its association with HackerOne. 65 hackers have already reported issues within the WordPress platform since Automattic began working with HackerOne in 2015 and there are plans to expand the program more in the coming months, perhaps to include plugins. Mullenweg admitted that there is a dedicated bug bounty program, but it’s not open to everyone due to a “backlog”.

It’s been more than a decade since WordPress’ founding, but largely its growth has been done organically. But now it seems Automattic is maturing and will begin figuring out how to advertise and market its services to a wider and more diverse set of people worldwide. “If someone you like recommends software, what better introduction to it?,” Mullenweg explained. “But I think we have a real opportunity to coordinate a bit…There’s no one company in the WordPress ecosystem to match $300 million in spend on telling people the WordPress story. And no one company needs to be large enough, because we’re a community. I feel we can become a lot more sophisticated especially particularly with our messaging and presentation on to bring people in and tell what makes WordPress different.”

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg delivers the 2016 "State of the Word" address at WordCamp US.

Above: Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg delivers the 2016 “State of the Word” address at WordCamp US.

Image Credit: Screenshot

That doesn’t mean that you’re going to start seeing Super Bowl commercials for WordPress, but with the establishment of the WP Growth Council, the aim is to counter the marketing offensive from “proprietary” software in certain markets and highlight why open source is the way to go. While not explicitly naming names, one might wonder whether Mullenweg is talking about Wix, which Automattic has been in a bit of a tiff with recently after its CEO accused the website creation service of not adhering to the letter and spirit of the open source licensing. Wix denied all allegations, with its leader claiming that he didn’t know there was a fight going on.

Other things revealed include the aforementioned SSL push (specifically HTTPS), of which 11.45 percent of WordPress-powered sites are currently using today. “I believe this is more and more important in a post-Snowden era,” Mullenweg claimed. He stated his case to those in attendance around why there’s bigger emphasis around encryption, enhanced security, and more, which is certainly something people are likely concerned about in light of a increase in cyber attacks on major systems and services over the past year.

At the end of his address, Mullenweg provided a sneak peek at the latest release that will be available next week.

We’ve reached out to Automattic for more details and will update if we hear back.

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