15 Years of WordPress

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15 Years of WordPress

Mon, 05/28/2018 - 08:48
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This month WordPress turns the ripe old age of 15 and the WordPress community is ready to celebrate.

Appropriately, for the wildly popular CMS, it all started with a blog post. Way back in January 2003, Matt Mullenweg, the co-creator of WordPress, wrote a short blog on his website, lamenting the lack of updates from his preferred blogging software, b2/cafelog.

Despite becoming increasingly popular since its release in 2001, b2/cafelog’s developer stopped maintaining the software in 2002, seemingly disappearing completely from all community forums.

Mullenweg was concerned about the future of his blog, along with the many other sites which already relied on b2/cafelog at the time. He also had some big ideas for how to make it better. Thankfully, b2/cafelog’s developer had released the software under general public license (GPL), meaning that anyone was free to fork and edit the code.

So, along with WordPress’ other co-founder, Mike Little, that’s exactly what Mullenweg did. The two set to work and by May 27, 2003 WordPress 1.0 was freely available, also under GPL.

Since then, WordPress has undergone many iterations, thanks to the community of developers contributing to its code. The software continues to grow in capability, and is most definitely safe from the fate of b2/cafelog – which, as predicted, quickly became outdated and filled with security flaws.

From its humble beginnings, WordPress now powers over 30% of the world’s websites – from personal blogs and small business websites, to large eCommerce stores and publishing sites, TechCrunch and The New Yorker.

Celebrating WordPress and the WordPress community

There are many different ways people contribute to the WordPress project. There’s not only the many skilled developers who build and maintain WordPress’ core code, there are accessibility experts, designers, marketers, translators and more – all with varying levels of skill and experience.

Anyone who has an interest in WordPress is considered a part of the famously welcoming and inclusive WordPress community. Community members get together at meetups and conferences, called WordCamps, which happen throughout the year in cities all across the world.

On 27 May 2018, local communities held special celebrations to mark WordPress’ 15th birthday (including at WordCamp Belfast), with people encouraged to use the hashtag #WP15, to be part of the live conversation at wp15.wordpress.net/live. If you’re interested in WordPress, it’s highly likely there’s a meetup happening in your local area.

To celebrate, London WordPress agency, 93 Digital, wanted to make something special to honor WordPress and the large community of volunteers across the globe who have contributed to its success over the years.

To that end, they’ve built an interactive Time Machine (using WordPress, naturally). You can view every incarnation of WordPress admin and accompanying default theme, right back to version 1.0, first released way back in 2003.

What’s in store for the next 15 years of WordPress?

WordPress’ overarching purpose is to make publishing online easy for everyone. In search of this goal, the software has undergone a lot of big changes over the years, including the introduction of the WYSIWYG, Visual Editor in 2006. When it was first released, the Visual Editor was initially condemned as “frustrating”, “buggy” and “horrendous” by some – with many die hard WordPress fans not wanting to move away from fully coding blog posts in HTML. However, thankfully, the Visual Editor soon became a mainstay of WordPress, vastly improving in subsequent releases.

Now, nearly 10 years later, similar debates are underway with WordPress undergoing yet another huge change: the release of a completely redesigned editor called Gutenberg.

Due for general release this year, Gutenberg is currently in beta and available as a free plugin. Once ready, it’ll be integrated into the core WordPress software and become the default editor for all new WordPress websites. It’s an entirely new style of editor, more akin to default page builders used by the platform Squarespace.

Just like the initial release of the Visual Editor, Gutenberg has so far received mixed reviews. The driving force behind Gutenberg is clearly the need to address some aspects of WordPress which need to improve in order for it to remain ahead of the curve.

Many of the solutions used by WordPress developers, including shortcodes, arose as workarounds. But, built from scratch using Facebook’s React JavaScript library, Gutenberg is a rare opportunity WordPress to go create an editor that works without the need for subsequent workarounds. Ultimately, it’s going to ensure WordPress can continue to be the leading CMS – seeing it continue to grow, improve and remain relevant in the next 15 years and beyond.

As to be expected, the response to Gutenberg’s release is mirroring that of the Visual Editor’s release. Developed in the open, Gutenberg receives mixed reviews, with strong criticism from many veteran WordPress developers. But the driving force behind Gutenberg is noble: there’s a clear need to address some major aspects of WordPress in order for it to remain ahead of the curve.

Many of the solutions used by WordPress developers, including shortcodes, arose as workarounds. Now though, built from scratch using Facebook’s React JavaScript library, Gutenberg provides a rare opportunity to create a WordPress editor that works really well, without the need for subsequent workarounds. Ultimately, it’s going to ensure WordPress can continue to be the leading CMS – seeing it continue to grow, improve and remain relevant in the next 15 years and beyond.

About the Author: Alex Denning is a digital marketer passionate about WordPress. You can follow him @AlexDenning.