An Unstoppable Juggernaut: The History of WordPress and its Impact on the Modern Web

WordPress, first released as an open-source project way back in 2003, was originally designed to be a “semantic self-publishing system with a focus on usability, aesthetics, and web standards”. Since then, the project has grown to encompass a massive amount of the web ecosystem. Currently, WordPress is powering at least 23 percent of all websites worldwide! No small feat when one looks at the humble beginnings of this internet juggernaut.

WordPress came to be due to the development of an existing blogging platform known as, b2/cafelog was discontinued by the developers. Later two former b2 users became frustrated when they saw that there weren’t any equivalent blogging platforms out there that offered the same degree of usability and decided to take matters into their own hands.

Building off the foundation left by b2, Matt Mullenwig and Mike Little began a journey that over the next decade would have a definitive impact on the way we view and access data online. When asked if they ever expected their small, private platform would ever turn into the Goliath of today, the two developers were quoted as saying in back-and-forth, near-tandem, “We started this project as a way for us to quickly post updates to our blogs. I don’t think either of us expected this to progress to this level. We are as impressed as we are astounded.”

WordPress first began to take traction online when the early “celebrity bloggers” began to adopt the framework because it offered performance on par with what had previously only been available to large corporations and media outlets for thousands of dollars via expensive web development firms and custom software projects. Now with WordPress, anyone with the time and inclination to create content could create a website and blog that could match anything being produced by professional designers and developers.

WordPress began to democratize the internet and made advanced technologies user-friendly enough that anyone, regardless of age or skill, with just a small amount of training or a healthy dose of autodidacticism could build, nurture, and grow a valuable web property. It is thanks to WordPress that many of the most popular sites online came to be. Internet enthusiasts, that otherwise were unable to access the complexity of competing products, were suddenly at the forefront of the web – with their work being seen by millions of people. If it wasn’t for the WordPress project, the internet of today would be very different than it is now.

After having established itself as the de facto tool for bloggers to develop their websites, the two developers founded Automattic as a way to oversee the vast amount of projects that were being created both in-house and by the large number of WordPress plugin creators. As WordPress grew in popularity, some of the companies creating plugins for the now well-established blogging platform were making millions of dollars selling everything from templates, text editors, to SEO plugins. At this point, it had become an industry onto itself and had made both Little and Mullenwig wealthy beyond their wildest expectations.

It was because of this that in 2010, Automattic gifted the ownership of the WordPress brand and logo to the newly created, WordPress Foundation. This was a significant moment in the history of blogging as it ensured that the WordPress framework would never be dependent on a single entity and would instead be available to anyone to develop and modify as they saw fit.

By this time, WordPress had ousted the competition such as, Joomla and Drupal to become the world’s most popular content management system.

Currently at 4.5, WordPress has continued to grow as it integrates the newest technologies into their platform. This ensures that WordPress users are always at the forefront of technology and their sites will readily adapt to major changes on the web. This was made extremely obvious when smartphones began to overtake personal computers as the “go to” method for accessing the web. Having had implemented a responsive design model early on, WordPress sites did not skip a beat as millions of others sites were forced to do complete overhauls in order to account for the reduction in screen real estate and ensure their sites were rendering properly.

The future of WordPress is looking even brighter than the past at this point thanks largely in part to the tens of thousands of professional WordPress developers that are constantly pushing the envelope as to what the framework is capable of doing.

One of the most interesting aspects of WordPress (and open-source) development is the fact that they are actively listening to the requests of their millions of users and thus the future of WordPress is not being shaped by some stuffy corporate-types sitting in fluorescent lit boardrooms. Instead, the future of WordPress is being defined by the people that are using it everyday to create the content that will sculpt the future of the internet.

Right now, the rumor mill is churning out some interesting speculations as to what the next few versions of WordPress are going to have to offer their users. One of the most talked about features is the possibility that the developers are going to be integrating a new system that was designed to be incredibly simple to install and operate. The intent is to attract both very young users, who will in turn become the next generation of WordPress content developers and even more interesting is their intent of bringing blogging to the elderly. Typically, computer users that were born prior to the 1950’s are capable of only the most basic of practices. The hope is, that by creating a system that is so simple that even a 4-year old could use it, WordPress will reach that ever-elusive Baby Boomer demographic.

Regardless of whatever they decide to roll out in the next few years, it is safe to say that WordPress is here to stay.