I feel like WordPress has been a part of my life for more than 10 years. But this past May, WordPress reached a 10 year milestone. What began with a conversation between Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little about forking their favorite blogging software evolved into the most powerful, ubiquitous website platform in the world. Currently powering 18% of all websites, WordPress has risen beyond fame and into legend.
This original post by Matt was the marker of inception of what would become WordPress. As futurist as he may be, I would speculate even Matt couldn’t predict what that project would become. But oh, are we thankful for what happened in the subsequent months.
Mike Little, the co-creator of WordPress recently wrote about the 10 years that have passed since the first release. He highlighted some of the huge websites that run WordPress, near 70 million websites now. Around half of the top 100 websites are using WordPress. The underlying theme here is one of appreciation. People across the globe have sent words of grattitude to Matt and others at Automattic for providing such a tool, for free. What is perhaps more important here, is the community they have developed. This has been possible, in part, because of a dedication to open source software.
WordPress started because Matt and Mike wanted a better “logging software” and the best at the time, TextPattern, was not GPL. Because of Matt’s dedication to an open and free web, (specifically: open source software with a General Public License), WordPress was born out of necessity.
Because WordPress is open source and freely available, it was adopted by millions. But a community is more than just an active forum. A community surrounding a piece of software is about shared ownership and investment. We all contribute to the vibrancy of the WordPress community and that’s what makes it unstoppable. If you are skeptical of the global impact of WordPress, head on over to http://en.wordpress.com/stats/ to see a live look at the geographical spread of action on the WordPress.com servers.
If that’s not convincing, take a look at the growth in WordPress.com pageviews. At press time, over 380 million people view 4.1 billion pages per month via WordPress.com. Now that’s impressive.
As I’ve already mentioned, the functionality, ease of use, simplicity and professionalism found with WordPress as a blogging tool was half the reason for it’s success. But the other half is due to the commitment to freely available software under a GPL. In honor of the 10th anniversary of WordPress, the in-process WordPress book “Freedom, Community and the Business of Open Source” added chapter 3 “On forking WordPress, Forks in General, Early WordPress and the Community”. In this chapter the genesis of WordPress is outlined, including the prophetic blog post from 2003.
In WordPress Matt’s succinct outline of the major impacts of each version from the beginning, he highlights one key factor that is not unique to the WordPress community, but so critical to it’s success:
In WordPress 1.2 the new Plugin API made it easy for developers to extend WordPress. In the same release
gettext()internationalization opened WordPress up to every language (hat tip: Ryan Boren for spending hours wrapping strings with gettext). In WordPress 1.5 our Theme system made it possible for WordPress users to quickly change their site’s design: there was huge resistance to the theme system from the wider community at the time, but can you imagine WordPress without it? Versions 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9 saw improvements that let users install and update their plugins and themes with one click. WordPress has seen a redesign by happycog (2.3) and gone under extensive user testing and redesign (Crazyhorse, Liz Danzico and Jen Mylo, WordPress 2.5). In WordPress 3.0 we merged WordPress MU with WordPress — a huge job but 100% worth it. And in WordPress 3.5 we revamped the media uploader to make it easier for people to get their images, video, and media online.
What Matt pointed out here is so very important. A vibrant developer community is the key to software success. Although at the time there was resistance, the healthy discussion made WordPress stronger.
If one thing is clear through this, it is the strength of the WordPress community over the last 10 years has grown at a steady clip. Without the community, there would be no WordPress. Without the vision of a couple pretty bright guys, there would be no WordPress. To all of you that have contributed to WordPress over the years, from Matt to Moe to Mary, THANK YOU.