The In-Depth Look at How WordPress Got to Where It Is Today
WordPress is arguably one of the big industry disruptors in the digital world. The platform made it possible for those with minimal computer skills to set up professional-looking websites and blogs quickly.
Without WordPress, would the digital landscape be quite as evolved as it is today? Probably not. Setting up a website from scratch requires the user to be a skilled coder. Writing code is also not the most scintillating task.
It’s like teaching a feisty five-year-old. You have to lay out the instructions step-by-step and make sure that you leave no loopholes that they can exploit.
With WordPress, you can accomplish the same task by using existing themes and plugins. All you have to do is add your content, and the platform does the rest.
It’s hardly surprising that WordPress has become one of the market leaders in this industry. WordPress has moved from the ranks of a simple platform to a fully developed content management system.
Are you curious to know how it got there? We were too, so we did a little research. You’ll find the results of that research in this in-depth guide to the history of WordPress.
WordPress Had a Slow Start
Michel Valdrighi created the original concept. The first version of WordPress was called B2/cafelog. The original concept didn’t look much like it does today.
It wasn’t really until Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little became involved in 2003 that the platform started to take shape. The name was a play on the term “letterpress.” Letterpress is a printing method that’s useful for making numerous copies. WordPress, therefore, is very aptly named.
The idea was to create a platform for personal publishing. The developers wanted to help users create sites that worked well and looked great. They wanted to improve the experience of web users and create a tool that was leagues ahead of anything out there.
The system was built on MySQL and PHP. It’s licensed under a General Public License. That means that users may use, modify, or share the software.
WordPress Turns 10
The platform, as we know it today, officially started in 2003. This useful infographic from Statista shows the highlights of the first 10 years.
The Timeline of WordPress Updates
The Original Concept
The original launch of B3 Cafelog, created by Michel Valdrighi in 2001.
The Launch of Version 0.7
In 2003, Version 0.7 was launched. The name officially changed to WordPress. The new release reworked the admin interface, added a links manager and texturize engine, allowed for templates compliant with XHML 1.1, and added new templates.
Version 1.0: Davis
Some significant upgrades in 2004 included browser installation and import enhancement.
Version 1.2: Mingus
Mingus’s most significant improvement was that it brought plugins. Password encryption was added with this update.
Version 1.5: Strayhorn
It was this update in 2005 that set the stage for WordPress to evolve into a content management system. Another significant improvement was a change in architecture to allow more plugins to be added. WordPress created its repository as a resource for developers.
Version 2.0: Duke
This version in 2005 changed the user role system and an improved backend UI. Duke also allowed users to preview the post before publishing it.
Version 2.1: Ella
Ella proved a boon for the more forgetful publishers in 2007. It included an autosave function. This version also introduced spell check and several improvements in the functions on the platform.
Version 2.2: Getz
Getz also came out in 2007. It improved the speed of filters and plugins. With this update, users had to activate plugins and were able to check for errors running plugins before publishing the page.
Version 2.3: Dexter
Another improvement in 2007 allowed users to tag posts, use pretty URLs, and opt for update notifications.
Version 2.5: Brecker
2008 was a good year for WordPress. It won the award for Collaboration in the Best of Open Source Software Awards.
Brecker changed the admin design again. The widget system was introduced at the same time.
Version 2.6: Tyner
This version in 2008 introduced the “Press This” feature and post revisions.
Version 2.7: Coltrane
Coltrane was the last of the 2008 updates. It allowed for automated upgrades and included plugins built into the design.
Version 2.8: Baker
2009 saw WordPress winning the award for Overall Best Open Source CMS.
Baker, released in the same year, saw further enhancements to speed. It also introduced the drag and drop function.
Version 2.9: Carmen
Carmen also saw some interesting developments in 2009. These included image editing and the ability to update plugins in bulk.
Version 3.0: Thelonius
2010 saw WordPress scooping up another prestigious award.
The only update this year was Thelonius. We now had more customization options, and the updates for plugins were improved.
Version 3.1: Reinhardt
This update in 2010 saw the addition of the admin bar and post formats.
Version 3.2: Gershwin
This version saw a change in user requirements. Users had to upgrade to MySQL 5.015 and PHP 126.96.36.199 at the very least. Gershwin gave us a faster version of the software and reduced the overall usage of resources.
Version 3.3: Sonny
The final update in 2010 saw WordPress focus more on beginners. The usability became easier, and the platform became more intuitive.
Version 3.4: Green
Green came out in 2012. This version allowed users to customize themes and also test them before they went live.
Version 3.5: Elvin
In 2012, Elvin saw a new media manager come onto the scene. A theme was created to display optimally on mobile.
Version 3.6: Oscar
Oscar in 2013 saw the introduction of video and audio support and several other improvements related to these forms of media.
Version 3.7: Basie
Basie heralded a new age for the platform’s security in 2013. Security and maintenance updates could now be automatically applied. The company also built in a password strength gauge.
Version 3.8: Parker
This saw the modernization of the admin panel. You could now also use color schemes.
Version 3.9: Smith
In 2014, Smith focused on improving the user’s media experience. It also made it easier to add media. Finally, you could now browse themes within the editor.
Version 4: Benny
Benny added previews when users were adding content from sites like YouTube. The editing and media functions were improved.
Version 4.1: Dinah
Dinah introduced language installation allowing you to switch between 40 global languages. It was the last update of 2014.
Version 4.2: Powell
Powell in 2015 allowed users to use emojis, and other characters. Users were now able to integrate Kickstarter or Tumblr.
Version 4.3: Billie
Billie saw things become easier with some shortcuts added. Users had better password protection.
Version 4.4: Clifford
Clifford made it possible for embeddable posts and responsive images. It was the last update for 2015.
Version 4.5: Coleman
Coleman added previews for desktop, mobile, or tablet. Users could now use their own logos.
Version 4.6: Pepper
Pepper focused on improving speed. Adding themes, activating plugins, and updating plugins could now be done from one screen.
Version 4.7: Vaughan
Vaughan was the last update for 2016. It provided more modern features. You could now choose to customize more bulk actions.
Version 4.8: Evans
2017 saw a lot of new widgets being added and an improvement of different functionality.
Version 4.9: Tipton
Tipton rounded off updates for 2017. This update focused on better user experience. You could also lock designs to prevent two collaborators working on the same changes.
Version 5.0: Bebo
Bebo is the latest of the rollouts and the last since 2018. The primary improvement was a block-based editor.
Community Support Played an Important Role
There’s little question that using a GPL license was a big contributing factor in the company’s success. WordPress took things a step further by sharing details about how the platform worked.
This not only improved the platform’s popularity but also allowed community developers to suggest useful upgrades. WordCamp, started in 2006 and run since then, provided an opportunity for developers to collaborate on different upgrades.
If something doesn’t make sense to users, they can turn to the community for support and advice.
The Growth of the Platform
The platform has grown from strength to strength. Over the last few years, WordPress has increased its market share to 35% of all websites published. Considering that the platform is now over 15 years old, this new growth is impressive. See for yourself in the chart below.
Statistics Sourced from W3 Tech
Today, there are over 20 billion pages using WordPress.
Plugins and Themes Changed the Experience
Plugins made it even easier for those with no technical expertise. Just choose the plugin for the functions that you liked, and the coding was done for you.
The most popular of the WordPress plugins is known as Jetpack. Jetpack provides extra security through locking sites when someone tries to gain unauthorized access. Jetpack also improves functionality.
Akismet helps to ward off spam comments and other forms of malicious software. Yoast SEO is a popular plugin to ensure that a user’s content is properly optimized. Don’t forget to add Google Analytics to get even more real-time data. Contact Form 7 allows visitors to contact you easily.
Today, there are over 55,000 plugins available on the platform. There are thousands of themes to choose from as well. If you’d like to narrow down your choices, have a look at our pick of the hottest WordPress themes for 2020.
Easy to Understand
Keeping up with the latest developments in the software world is hard enough if you’re a developer. For people with no technical background, it’s virtually impossible. The easy-to-use interface takes a lot of the pain out of the process.
Those creating plugins and themes will regularly release updates. The WordPress community and the company also work on improving usability. These updates make it possible to enjoy better technical improvements, even if users know nothing about coding.
There are two levels of support with WordPress. The first is coaching through informal forums. The second is the company’s support. If users require more assistance, premium support is available to them.
Languages and Translations
One of the attractions for the platform is that it allows multi-language support. While most of the content on the platform is in English, there are over 120 languages overall. Users can check which languages are supported here. There are many languages on the page, but not all are fully supported. Users may submit translations if they would like to.
Open Source Software and a Free Start
One of the biggest advantages is that you can run a basic site for free. Many good themes are free. The plugins allowed with the free package are limited, so you’ll probably want to upgrade at some point. That said, it’s an easy way to get started on a shoestring budget.
The coding is open source, so if you do have a flair for programming, you can create themes, plugins, or even suggest modifications for the platform.
Earn Money on the Platform
Aside from the typical monetization strategies, you can have the opportunity to earn just by showcasing your own developed theme. This is one of the reasons that developers are so interested in the platform. They can make money by creating workable themes and selling them. New, unique themes that operate flawlessly are always in demand thanks to the millions of users on the site.
The Downside: Hackers
Unfortunately, hacking and spam is a problem on the platform. WordPress has weathered a fair number of negative publicity for this reason. In 2018, 90% of hacked CMS sites were WordPress-based.
Whether that figure’s skewed by the relative popularity of the site, we’ll let you decide. Still, it’s a concerning figure. It should also be noted that WordPress provides the software to build a site, not protection for it.
According to W3 Techs, 25% of WordPress users opt to run on earlier versions of the software. This could cost them dearly as they’re missing out on important security updates. It’s also wise to carefully assess plugins before installing them. They may be used to inject malware onto your website.
Akismet and Jetpack are both reputable plugins that help to improve the security of the site. Users must ensure that they update their themes and plugins regularly to block more incursions.
To further safeguard users, WordPress does allow two-factor authentication. This is a useful feature to enable because it works as an alert system, too. If someone attempts to sign in to your account, WordPress sends a message to your phone.
If it weren’t you signing in, you’d know that you needed to change your password to something more secure.
The platform does seem to be moving from strength to strength. According to BuiltWith, 27,021,750 sites use WordPress today. These aren’t all small websites or blogs. According to the same research, close to 350,000 of those sites fall into the category of the top million sites online.
To give you an idea of WordPress’s dominance in the market, Joomla comes in second with just 829,035 sites.
From a software developer’s standpoint, WordPress was the 9th most popular platform in 2019, with a 14.5% market share. According to Hubspot’s State of Marketing Report, 18% of marketers use WordPress’s content management system.
Overall, WordPress has proven that it’s an adaptable and highly responsive platform. It’ll be a long time before we hear the death knell of this company.