The 50 Most Important People on the Web

Important People #16 through #20

Matt Mullenweg
Photograph: Courtesy of Photo Matt
16. Matt Mullenweg
Developer, WordPress blogging site and software

Matt Mullenweg can barely buy a drink, but this 22-year-old open-source enthusiast developed WordPress, the open-source publishing software favored by blogging diehards around the world. In 2004, WordPress became well-enough known that Web publishing powerhouse CNet hired Mullenweg to work on it and other projects. Mullenweg quit in 2005, however, to work full-time on WordPress, which today is more like a content-management system, with various templates, widgets, and plug-ins, and Askismet antispam protection (we reviewed the service in January 2007.)

Philip Rosedale
Photograph: Copyright 2007. Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
17. Philip Rosedale
CEO, Linden Lab

Philip Rosedale took the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) concept and spun it into the Web's most talked-about virtual destination: Second Life. But don't call it just a game. For more and more "residents," Second Life has become a first life, where they can do everything in the virtual world from getting married to launching businesses that function exclusively within the site's confines. Many real-world businesses have opened Second Life branches, too. In fact, Second Life has become so popular that the inevitable backlash has begun: Nick Denton's Valleywag (see #45) has compared the game's economy to a pyramid scheme

Jon Lech Johansen
Photograph: Copyright 2006. Jon Lech Johanse
18. Jon Lech Johansen
Creator, DeCSS decryption program

Better known as DVD-Jon, Jon Lech Johansen is the Norwegian hacker who broke the encryption system used on DVD movies, thereby allowing them to be copied. He released the DeCSS decryption program in 2002 and was promptly prosecuted in his homeland. Eventually acquitted, Johansen went on to crack Apple's iTunes DRM (repeatedly) while working as a software developer in the United States. Beaten to the punch in cracking high-definition DVD formats by the still-anonymous muslix64, who created "backup" programs for HD DVD late last year and for Blu-ray Disc in January, Johansen nonetheless remains the renegade that big media fears most.

Jerry Yang
David Filo
Terry Semel
19. Jerry Yang, David Filo, and Terry Semel
Executives, Yahoo

Google's product innovations and its blockbuster purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion may have pushed Yahoo out of the limelight, but the Web giant led by founders Yang and Filo and CEO Terry Semel are fighting back. In the past two years, Yahoo has acquired online photo-sharing site Flickr and social bookmarking site Del.icio.us. It also continues to launch new properties such as Yahoo Food and Yahoo Pipes (for creating custom data feeds). Yahoo's recent switch to the Panama advertising platform represents another attempt to recapture ad revenue from Google. (Full disclosure: The author of this story writes a blog hosted at tech.yahoo.com.)

Jack Ma
20. Jack Ma
COO, Alibaba.com

Want to do business in China without springing for a plane ticket to Shanghai? Alibaba.com is your best bet. Founded by Jack Ma in 1999, this massively successful business-to-business e-marketplace is the best place online to meet people and trade proposals and product offers. (Ma has been quoted as saying that the firm got its bizarre start when he was kidnapped in Malibu and released on the condition he help his captor start a business in China.) In 2005, Yahoo (see #19) made a multibillion-dollar investment in Alibaba, which now runs Yahoo China. The venture recently became mired in scandal, when it provided information that led to the imprisonment of a Chinese journalist accused of leaking state secrets.

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