Often when beginners start using WordPress today, they see an extremely popular content management system that is powering 22% of all websites. A lot of users get shocked when we tell them that WordPress is free and open source. In this article, we want to take a look back at the history of WordPress to show you how it evolved overtime.
The story of WordPress tells us how open source communities work to make something so useful without compromising software freedom. WordPress project is carried by a community of dedicated developers, users, and supporters.
WordPress started out because the development of an existing blogging software b2/cafelog was discontinued by their main developers. In 2003, two users of b2/cafelog, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, decided to build a new platform on top of b2/cafelog.
They probably didn’t know that they are about to start a journey that would eventually benefit millions of users around the globe, create thousands of jobs, and a whole industry of developers, designers, writers, bloggers, and web publishers would make their living out of it.
On May 27, 2003, Matt announced the availability of the first version of WordPress. It was well received by the community. It was based on b2 Cafelog with significant improvements. The first version of WordPress included a new admin interface, new templates, and generated XHTML 1.1 compliant templates. The post editor looked like this:
In May 2004, version 1.2 of WordPress came with Plugin Architecture which allowed users and developers to extend the functionality of WordPress by writing their own plugins and sharing them with rest of the community. As WordPress was opening itself to the community, something totally opposite was happening in the blogging industry at that time.
The market leader in blogging tools industry at that time was Moveable Type. They announced new licensing terms which were not liked by many of their users. This resulted in users looking for a new blogging platform. WordPress 1.2, presented itself as an ambitious project offering users a mature, stable, easy and flexible platform with features that rivaled their proprietary competitors. The adaption rate of WordPress skyrocketed with this release.
With the increase in the number of users, WordPress started getting better with the help and interest of the community. In February 2005, WordPress 1.5 came with Pages, comment moderation tools, new default theme Kubrick, and a completely new Theme System. Matt announced themes with these words:
In 1.5 we have created an incredibly flexible theme system that adapts to you rather than expecting you adapt to it. You can have your entire weblog run through a single file, just like before, or you can literally have a different template for every single different category. It’s as much or as little as you want. We’ve also broken common site elements like headers, footers, and sidebars into their own files so you can make a change in one place and see it everywhere immediately. “Matt Mullenweg – Announcing WordPress 1.5“
But Admin UI was not the only significant improvement in this release. It was the first release that came with Akismet anti-spam plugin pre-installed. It also came with a WordPress database backup plugin, wp-db-backup, which was then dropped in 2007. Another first for this release was the introduction of a functions.php file in the Theme System.
Automattic, the company founded by WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, filed trademark registration for WordPress and WordPress logo in 2006.
In 2008, a web design company called Happy Cog joined the WordPress project to help design a new WordPress admin interface. A usability study was conducted to design the admin UI. With different releases throughout the year several new features such as shortcodes, one-click updates, and built-in plugin installation were added to WordPress.
In 2010, Automattic, the company founded by WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, transferred the ownership of WordPress trademark and logo to the WordPress Foundation. This was a significant moment in WordPress history, because it ensured that WordPress will continue to grow, and is not dependent on a company or a group of developers to continue the project.
WordPress 3.0 was released on June 17, 2010. It was a major steps towards WordPress as CMS. This release introduced several features such as custom post types, better custom taxonomies, custom backgrounds, header, menus, contextual help on admin screens, etc. WordPress MU project was merged into WordPress core to create Multisite networks.
It also came with Twenty Ten, which started the tradition of a new default theme for each year.
In 2012, theme customizer, theme previews, and new media manager were introduced. These features tremendously helped new users in creating image galleries and previewing themes before they change to a new theme.
In 2013, WordPress 3.7 came with the new automatic updates feature that allowed WordPress to automatically update your site’s software for minor releases. The automatic updates feature is very similar to what Google Chrome browser does. Several users didn’t like the feature, so we wrote a tutorial on how to disable automatic updates.
By this time WordPress had already became the most popular CMS in the world.
The same year WordPress 3.8 was released which introduced MP6, the new WordPress admin interface. This new interface was responsive and was aimed to provide a better user experience to users, on any device or screen size.
At the time of writing this article, we are now using WordPress 3.9 which was released on April 16, 2014. This release focused on improving the WordPress visual post editor. Images can now be dragged and dropped directly into post editor. Users are now able to edit images right inside the editor and see their gallery previews inside the editor. WordPress 3.9 also introduced live widget previews, audio playlists, and several other enhancements.
What’s next for WordPress?
WordPress is continously evolving to address the needs of the millions of web publishers around the world. The direction of WordPress directly depends on the needs of users. We can safely assume that it will continue to empower people around the world to create wonderful web spaces.