- Patrick Scully
Reading Time: 6:21
WordPress has enabled millions to publish their ideas, experiences, and talent to the world. It has given a platform to voices that might otherwise have been unheard and, as one of the biggest content management systems (CMS) in the world, it is also used by some of the world’s biggest media outlets. But where did WordPress come from? And how did it come to power over 30% of websites on the internet?
Below we explore WordPress history by discussing the origins, the gradual rise to massive popularity, and a unique timeline of events.
When Did The WordPress Phenomenon Start?
Although WordPress is now pretty much synonymous with blogging, it has only been around since 2003 when the amateur programmer Matt Mullenweg created a fork off from the blogging platform popular at that time, called b2, after the platform was left untended.
This platform, written in PHP and designed by new developer Michel Valdrighi, was approachable for people not necessarily familiar with computer science and relatively easy to experiment with.
Fortunately, an early decision made by b2’s designer kept the platform as open source so long as it was always repurposed in GPL code.
Then, after he disappeared in 2002 to deal with personal issues in his own life, Matt Mullenweg’s plea for assistance connected him with Mike Little, another b2 user and the only respondent to his post, who agreed to take on the project of creating the b2 fork, which was named WordPress when released on 1 April 2003.
These two co-operators built a world of opportunity into WordPress whilst cleaning up what was carried over, ensuring it was a stable platform, and making it almost entirely XHTML 1.1 compliant thanks to efforts to meet standards outlined by the Web Standards Project.
WordPress Grows Over Time
As WordPress has developed (pun intended), the goal has been to make things easier for users with the addition of forums and documentation and removing the need for users to see code.
The 2004 version of WordPress really brought plugins into force, opening up to the community of developers to bring new functionality to be shared in the WordPress community.
One of the greatest aspects of WordPress is that it is completely free, which makes it an incredibly accessible platform for those wanting to start their own website or blog.
As WordPress is an open source community project, this means that it has been created by tens of thousands of developers and the software can be adapted and improved by the community itself.
With a competitor starting to charge for their services in 2004, thousands more headed WordPress’s way, injecting even faster adaptions and improvements.
This included the addition of themes, plugin management systems, and creating an incredible content management system that gives millions the power of code without them needing to learn a programming language.
The explosion of WordPress plugins
The effectiveness of plugins soon led to their explosion in terms of numbers of plugins available to over 60,000 in 2019 and 50,000 of these available for free.
Picking the right ones for your needs will obviously depend on your niche, you should try and get a good spread of plugins covering security, website speed, SEO quality, contacts and more.
Fortunately, thanks to the growth in the WordPress community, you will probably have more trouble finding a problem that doesn’t have a plugin solution than a plugin that fits your needs exactly to the letter.
History of WordPress: Changes & New Releases
2002 – A partnership is made between Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little on a b2 forum.
2003 - The newly developed b2 fork is released on 1 April 2003 under the name WordPress which was suggested by the prolific blogger Christine Selleck Tremoulet, Matt Mullenweg’s good friend.
2004 – Thousands join the WordPress community when competitor Moveable Type starts charging for their services increasing innovation and the adaptability of the WordPress platform soars.
2005 – WordPress Versions 1.5 and 2.0 released introducing comment moderation tools and a new admin dashboard area to provide an improved user interface. It also built in the Akismet anti-spam plugin with an effective spam catching algorithm.
2006 – The WordPress and the WordPress logo are trademarked
2007 – Versions, 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 introduce spellcheck, autosave, widgets, tagging, and speed optimization.
2008 & 2009 – WordPress welcomes Happy Cog to the community to help design a more user-friendly interface and introduces one-click updates, shortcodes, and a new API.
2010 – This was a big year for the future of WordPress with ownership transferred to the WordPress Foundation meaning it was no longer dependent on just a single group of developers nor company. The new version 3. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G0cMG3R-XM) was also a breakthrough in terms of WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o2XcHqQbRY), as well as introducing annual themes with the release of “Twenty Ten”.
2011 – The year of the e-commerce plugins helped WordPress users build growing e-commerce websites with simple but powerful plugins and further efforts to make it more user-friendly for beginners were implemented.
2012 & 2013 – Creating image galleries and customizing themes were popular additions along with the addition of automatic updates with WordPress 3.7. The rapid rise in smartphones was also adapted to this year with WordPress 3.8 being made responsive to different screen sizes.
2014 – Massive improvements made to the media experience in WordPress 3.9 (https://www.visualistan.com/2014/04/wordpress-39-new-features-you-will-love.html) and the worldwide success highlighted by the fact that non-English downloads surpassed their English counterparts for the first-ever time.
2015 – WordPress welcomes Emoji support to the community and plugin updates were massively sped up.
2016 – Active support for HTTP now provided and content recovery enabled through browser history.
2017 – The new releases are now available in 68 fully translated languages and even used by governments across the globe to power their websites as well as school, colleges, and universities, cementing it is as a worldwide sensation.
2018 – WordPress is now run using Gutenberg a block editor making onscreen design easier for more elaborate content layouts. This editor is designed to be intuitive making it a perfect tool for the novice users late to the WordPress party.
2019 - WordPress 5.1 is released and with it improvements to the block editor.
It may surprise many people that WordPress is the older relative to Twitter and Facebook but, unlike these behemoths of the internet, it is not owned by any single company or person and has no CEO.
It is simply a global project run by developers and the source code is freely available for whoever wants to use it, build on it, and modify it to make it better. With 50,000 free plugins available more than a billion have been downloaded annually since 2015.
Despite all this being provided free it has created a multi-billion dollar economy.
For 25 interesting facts about WordPress check out this handy infographic that will set you up with the knowledge that the WordPress community has plenty of space for new members. https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/facts-about-wordpress/?display=wide.
What is next for WordPress?
Thanks to the huge community of developers and users that have now sprung out of the chance encounter of 2 programmers on an online b2 forum in 2002, WordPress has been able to evolve continuously.
Now serving millions of web publishers worldwide and driven by the needs of users it is able to create web spaces, and ways of designing them, that improve in real-time thanks to its ever-growing community.
Why choose WordPress?
If reading about the history of WordPress hasn’t left you chomping at the bit to get involved, then here are 5 reasons that might make you think again:
- It’s Popular - More than 74 million sites (https://wordpress.org/about/features/) use WordPress confirming its versatility and ease of use.
- It’s multilingual - with 60 languages fully translated.
- It’s easy to use - and is continually being updated to make it more and more user-friendly.
- It’s secure – Being open source doesn’t mean your sites aren’t secure thanks to WordPress’s large security team always on the hunt and making sure the website can be made more secure.
- It’s the best for SEO – WordPress actually solves a high amount of SEO issues within it making it easier to make search engine friendly sites without expert knowledge.
WordPress has grown from the humble origins of a single response on a blog post to a huge community of support powering millions of websites worldwide in over 68 languages.
It has given millions the opportunity to share their ideas with the world without having to become an expert in coding and makes it easy to turn business and e-commerce ideas into reality.
Now you know where it has come from and where it is going, we hope you feel empowered to explore the benefits WordPress can offer you.