The History of WordPress

Known as the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), WordPress is now being used by millions of website owners all over the world for a multitude of different purposes.

This trusted, and well-established self-hosted blogging tool has been running for over a decade now. Just like other popular software applications, WordPress has its share of interesting stories that have shaped its early years and development.

From the beginning of WordPress until present day, let’s take a short trip back in time to see how WordPress started, what it has become, and people’s predictions for WordPress in the future.

This is the history of WordPress.

b2/cafelog and The Official WordPress Launch (2001 – 2003)

Before WordPress, there was another blogging tool that early online writers flocked to. This blogging tool was developed by a French programmer, Michel Valdrighi, and was called b2/cafelog. b2/cafelog is considered to be WordPress’ predecessor.

b2/cafelog was launched in 2001 to a fanfare of users. However, it wasn’t long before Valdrighi ceased to continue maintaining b2/cafelog’s software. Not long after it’s release, in late 2002, it stopped running altogether.

In 2003, university freshman Matt Mullenweg decided to do something about b2/cafelog’s cease in operations. He was a user of the software and was disappointed that Valdrighi’s abandonment of the tool meant that his future use of b2 was limited. Together with Mike Little, Mullenweg decided to create a completely new version of the b2 blogging software.

Mullenweg and Little first released WordPress version 0.7 in May 2003. This initial offering didn’t include a dashboard, but did allow for three publishing states for posts: “Publish”, “Draft”, and “Private”.

Soon after, other developers joined the WordPress party, including Alex King and Dougal Campbell, and even the original developer of b2, Valdrighi. And with that, the history of WordPress officially begins.

The Introduction of Plugins and Themes (2004 – 2005)

WordPress updated to version 1.0 under the codename Davis in January 2004. The initial full version of WordPress takes its name from Miles Dewey Davis III. You’ll notice a pattern throughout history, as WordPress started naming their new update versions after well-known jazz musicians, starting with version 1.0. WordPress 1.0 brought forth features such as search engine-friendly permalinks, and multiple categories.

In the same year, in May, WordPress updated to version 1.2 (Mingus), which introduced users to plugins. Additional features in this update included thumbnail creation, encrypted passwords, post preview, sub-categories, and custom fields.

In February 2005, when WordPress updated to version 1.5 (Strayhorn), the ability to toggle between different themes was added. This is also when the dashboard was first introduced, and it included a separate distinction and functionality for page creation. previously the only option for creating content was using posts. 2005 was also the year when WordPress first reached over 900,000 downloads.

Around late March and early April of the same year, at least 168,000 hidden articles were found on WordPress.org, using cloaking. Cloaking is a known black hat SEO technique that refers to a situation where content presented to the search engine crawlers/spiders is different from what users see in browsers.

These articles were directly tied to advertising revenue for Automattic. Mullenweg wrote a response to the situation on his own website, admitting fault for the situation and asking for forgiveness. He then removed all the hidden articles. It was definitely a rocky chapter in the history of WordPress.

In October 2005, the trusted spam comment and trackback moderator, Akismet, was released to WordPress’ adoring public. A month after this, the WordPress.com project, which was opened to beta testers in August 2005, was finally launched to the public.

For the last WordPress update of 2005 (version 2.0 – Duke), user profiles were introduced.

New Interface, Improved Security, Widgets, and More (2007 – 2008)

Compared to its formative years, the year 2006 was pretty uneventful for WordPress. In fact, not a single update was released until the following year. That said, this was the year that funding partners and investors started taking the company, and its founder Matt Mullenweg, a lot more seriously.

In 2007, version 2.1 (Ella), was released, which brought about a new user interface, corrected security, an enhanced editing tool, and improved content management options. In the same year, during the update to version 2.2 (Getz), widgets and the atom feed were improved, as well as speed optimization. This is also the year when autosave was developed.

During early 2008, thanks to more funding coming in to WordPress, the Brecker (version 2.5) resulted in a major revamp of the dashboard and other functionality related to it. The ability to update plugins with just one click was also first introduced. Other new features included a built-in gallery and an improved visual editor.

In a later update during the same year, the Admin Panel was improved (version 2.7 – Coltrane). Throughout the year, additional functionality and tools were added in each updated WordPress version, which made the platform an increasingly powerful CMS.

A Decade(ish) Later (2009 – 2010)

In 2009, WordPress took another big step with the features added to the latest new version of its software, which included auto-updates like the automatic installation of themes and built-in plugin installations. The comment threader/reply system was also developed during this time.

In December 2009, in the version 2.9 (Carmen) update, the ability to “undo” deleted posts was added to the WordPress CMS. This update also included features like a built-in graphic and image editor, an easier mechanism for embedding videos, and better platform SEO support.

Matt Mullenweg had received multiple awards since 2007 for his efforts on WordPress. In 2009, he was named as an honorary of the University Philosophical Society. This is also the same year that he received the Overall Best Open Source CMS Award for WordPress.

Ten years after the initial software release, WordPress now had nearly two hundred employees after starting with just two creators. Thanks to the open source nature of the software, they also had—and still have—thousands of contributing developers all over the world.

During 2010 WordPress updates, a custom header was also added as a feature, replacing the default famous blue WordPress header.

A Focus on Improvements (2011 – 2014)

WordPress updates during the following year focused on software improvements more than completely new features. The first update of 2011 focused on making WordPress faster and lighter. In late 2011, the WordPress CMS was developed to be more beginner-friendly, and tablet computer-friendly.

In 2012, the latest WordPress update focused on improving built-in theme customization. This was also the time when a WordPress/Twitter integration was first developed. And it was in 2012 that Mullenweg earned his spot on 2012 Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Media list.

In 2013, new updates developed as an automatic application of maintenance and security updates in the background. In 2014, WordPress updates focused on improving media management, the writing interface, embeds, and compatibility with PHP 5.5 and MySQL 5.6.

During this timeframe, ecommerce websites started to proliferate online. WooCommerce, an ecommerce plugin for WordPress, was launched in 2011. It wasn’t until 2014 that WooCommerce significantly grew, powering over 381,187 websites (or about 17.77% of all ecommerce sites online at the time).

WordPress As We Know It (2015 – Present)

Early 2015 introduced an easy way to share content from WordPress: the “Press This” feature. Press This is a browser bookmarklet that is used when browsing a page. It allows the user to easily post a link or comment to their WordPress blog, based on the content of the page they’re currently viewing.

In 2015, the use of mobile devices to access the internet was growing rapidly. By this year, nearly two-thirds of Americans were smartphone owners. Because of their convenience and the fact that most people never leave their house without them, smartphones had become a primary device for accessing the internet—even more so than desktop computers. In August 2015, the newest WordPress update focused on improving the mobile experience.

By 2016, several security and maintenance-focused updates were released with new WordPress versions. In the June 2017 update (version 4.8 – Evans), the next-generation editor was developed.

Today, WordPress powers 59.7% of websites that run a content management system (CMS), or the equivalent of 28.8% of all websites on the internet.

The Future of WordPress (REST API and Calypso)

As of this writing, WordPress is expected to release an update in November 2017. The WordPress community is not yet privy to what additional features and improvements will be included in this update, a future entry for the history of WordPress.

The REST API was included in WordPress version 4.7, an update that took place in December 2016. This year (2017), its use is becoming more widespread. Ryan McCue, the lead developer of the REST API, foresees it as having a larger role in WordPress moving into 2020. He claims that this is when REST use will be at its peak and when it will be fully mature in WordPress.

On a related note, the community forecasts that in the next few years, WordPress will power 35% of all of the website in the internet. 80% of the world’s top 100 new websites that use WordPress will be powered by REST API.

With the introduction of Calypso, there’s a lot more to look forward in the future, not only for developers, but also for website owners. Calypso is the new interface of WordPress.com, and Jetpack-enabled self-hosted WordPress websites. Calypso offers a better mechanism for managing WordPress content, changing themes, viewing and monitoring stats, reading favorite website/blogs, and making updates.

This feature uses Javascript and REST API unlike the traditional, and somewhat confusing, WordPress Admin interface. As long as Jetpack is enabled on self-hosted WordPress websites, the inclusion of Calypso will work like a magic.

With a faster and improved interface, this feature is slated to play a large role in the future development of WordPress.

Of course, right now most developers are more concerned with the development of Gutenberg. Gutenberg is an optional plugin right now, though WordPress core developers are planning to release it as a built-in feature with the next major WordPress update. People have a lot of mixed feelings about it, and news surrounding the update is developing as of this writing.

The History of WordPress

The continued improvements to WordPress software year over year means that the once humble blogging platform will continue to prosper and reach new audiences for years to come. At just 14 years old, WordPress has gone through enough changes to have the wisdom of a sage grandparent instead of the beginnings of understanding more closely associated with that of a teenager.

Truthfully, WordPress still has many years and changes ahead of it and what we know it as right now is really just the beginning.

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, www.The-Blogsmith.com and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman. More articles by Maddy Osman
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