WordPress.com and Tumblr owner Automattic is adding another company to its portfolio with today’s news that it’s acquired the all-in-one messaging app Texts.com for $50 million. The app brings all your messaging apps together in a single dashboard, including iMessage, Slack, WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram, Messenger, LinkedIn, Signal, Discord, and X, with plans for more in the future, a company blog post announced.
Though other companies have tried to do something similar — like Beeper — Texts.com offers end-to-end encryption of your chats and other features users have always wanted, like the ability to schedule messages at a time that’s convenient for the recipient, not just for you. In addition, you can mark messages as unread even on services that don’t offer that feature, allowing you to remember to check that message again when you return, as well as get summaries of long group chats you’ve missed.
The company explained its interest in the messaging platform in an announcement, saying that the acquisition allows it to move into a “fourth market that’s integral to the modern web experience: messaging.”
Already, Automattic offers WordPress for online publishing, WooCommerce for e-commerce, and Tumblr for blogging and a suite of ad tools. It also acquired a journaling app, Day One, and a podcasts app Pocket Casts, in 2021 and more recently, an ActivityPub plugin that allows WordPress blogs to connect to the wider web of interconnected but decentralized social networking apps, like Mastodon, collectively known as the fediverse.
With the acquisition, Texts.com founder Kishan Bagaria will join the company as the new head of messaging, along with the rest of the distributed Texts.com team.
The Verge first reported the news of the acquisition.
Speaking to the Pivot podcast, Automattic owner Matt Mullenweg explained that, in part, some of the desire for the deal was born out of personal frustration — everyone has multiple messaging apps, and it’s hard to track who you messaged on each one.
“I found myself sort of getting very behind and so went out in the market and actually Automattic ended up making some investments in this space over the last few years, including in Element, which is a Matrix company, Beeper, which is another app, which has some similar things, but differently, and came across Texts, and was really just taken with the product,” he explained.
In addition, he said he likes to work in areas that you can spend the rest of your life on.
But Mullenweg also pointed to the current regulatory framework as something that made the deal more viable. With the EU regulations, he believed that it would be more difficult for Apple, Google, and Meta to block a smaller player like Texts because it’s user-centric, runs client-side, and is 100% encrypted.
“So it’s just as secure as their desktop apps,” he said. (Apple has fought against opening up its iOS platform to third-party app stores because they’re less secure than its own. It couldn’t make that same argument with Texts.com).
Mullenweg also believes that putting a messaging app in the hands of a company like Automattic — a sizable company not one considered a part of “Big Tech,” — will allow it to develop Texts more quickly and maintain its focus. He suggested that big companies, like Google, often don’t get messaging right. (In fact, Google had so many different messaging initiatives at one point, it became a running joke). Plus, iMessage has been locked into the Apple ecosystem which excludes people from participating, if they don’t have an iPhone or Mac. U.S. teens, in particular, are locked into the Apple universe because of the blue bubbles, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.
The Automattic founder also said that Texts.com fits into the company because of its user-centric values tied to the way it tries to support everything people use for messaging.
“As users, we use all these things. And the companies want to pretend you don’t, but we all do. So that’s also something we’ve taken a big approach for…we just tried to integrate with everything. Open source also makes it easy, because people can write plugins for anything,” he said. “So I think if you keep those three things in mind, you can compete with the big guys, and in fact, thrive.”
Texts.com isn’t yet open to the public, but a waitlist is available.