WordPress is the World Wide Web’s absolutely most favorite content management system (CMS). And it is Wiredelta’s favorite go-to tool for simple – and not so simple – promotional and e-commerce platforms, which you find under our Cases. So today we thought we might tell you the story of how WordPress was developed. But before we do that, let’s first take a look at what WordPress is.
What is WordPress?
WordPress powers more the 37% of the World Wide Web’s sites and it is by far the most sought after content management system. For those who don’t know, a CMS is an application or software library that allows users to easily create and manage their digital content. And WordPress excels at it.
Whether you want to start a simple blog, need a quick and pretty promotional site or you want to set up your very own e-commerce platform, WordPress is the right tool for you. WordPress is extremely useful and flexible by being open source. And easy to learn too!
In our work, we have used – and sometimes abused – WordPress in a variety of ways, most notable being Game Academy. This non-profitable organization needed a platform where their volunteers would find group exercises and be able to put together training sessions for children. They also had a limited budget, so a custom-built website was out of the question.
So, we transformed Woocommerce – WordPress’ e-commerce tool – into a “practice catalog”. It works more or less the same as a product list, but we heavily customized the e-commerce plugin to fit our needs. We also changed the filter function from “inclusive” to “exclusive”. Basically, the default filters in WordPress work by including the selected criteria in the search. So, if you select three criteria – color, size, shape f.ex – your results will include at least one. We, on the other hand, needed an “exclusive” version, so when 3 criteria – color, size, and shape – are selected, all three have to be included in the search. And so we made our own search function, with filters and tags.
The History of WordPress
So, yes, status quo for WordPress is amazing and empowering, but how did it start? WordPress was created in 2003 by a college student from Huston, Texas, named Matt Mullenweg. Originally, WordPress started as a fork of b2/cafelog, a popular blogging tool at the time that Mullenweg intended to use for personal purposes. Simply put, the creator behind this tool had to give it up, so there was no one left to maintain it or its community.
Thus, Matt decided to build his own version. Hence, he teamed up with his friend Mike Little and on April 1st, 2003, they started coding. On May 27th, 2003 the first official version of WordPress, WordPress 0.7 was published.
That year, WordPress had about 7 more updates, until WordPress 1.0 was launched and changed everything for the young blogging platform.
WordPress 1.0 – Davis
In January 2004, WordPress 1.0, also known as Davis – the first version of WordPress resembling the technology we know and love today – was released. This was a huge update from the original versions. Among many others, this version introduced search engine friendly permalinks, a multi-category system, and comments moderating. It is with this version that we see the first steps towards the SEO-oriented website builder WordPress will become.
This was also the first version where we meet the plugin Hello Dolly, named after Louis Armstrong’s famous song – Matt being the Jazz lover he is. Hello Dolly is a well-loved part of WordPress to this day because, in Matt’s own words, it is a symbol of hope and enthusiasm for a whole generation.
Another significant event in 2004 for WordPress was when its competitor, Movable Type, introduced a new pricing scheme. Since WordPress was – and still is – free to use, many of Movable Type’s users switched to it instead, marking the pinpoint of WordPress’s popularity.
WordPress Akismet and Automattic
In October 2005, Matt released Akismet. This is a renowned antispam plugin for WordPress that is used by millions of websites today. In fact, it is currently one of the most popular plugins available.
The same month, Automattic was born. Automattic is the company behind WordPress today. At this point in time, WordPress became a full-time project for Matt, and to top a great year off, Automattic also raised more than $1 million in funding.
The first WordCamp
Matt wanted WordPress to be more than a simple blogging platform, he wanted it to be a community. So, in 2006 he organized the first-ever WordCamp in San Francisco. The event brings together developers and WordPress users and discusses the platform, new features, and releases, and everything else related to WordPress.
The event was such a success that it inspired local communities to organize their own. Over the years, there have been 1063 WordCamps organized in 75 different cities from 6 continents and 65 countries. And there are 5 more upcoming camps – most online due to COVID-19 – this year for those interested.
WordPress Gravatar, BuddyPress, Themes and beyond
In 2007 Automattic bought Gravatar, the tech behind the well-known avatars – user pictures – next to usernames. In January the next year, they raised another $29.5 million in funding. Using these funds, Automattic acquired BuddyPress, the social plugin for forums, among others.
Also in 2008, WordPress launched the WordPress Theme Directory. This enabled anyone to develop and upload their own themes. Today, there are over 7500 themes available on the Theme Directory.
In 2009 WordPress wins the Packt award for the best Open Source CMS. They also released WordPress 2.8 – the Baker version. This update introduced the automatic installation of themes and the CodePress editor, helping developers code easier and better.
However, probably the most impactful series of changes were brought by WordPress 3.0, launched in 2010. One example is the multi-site feature that allows users to create a network of sites independent from each other. Aside from this, the custom post types have been polished so users have more creative freedom. A year later, the release of version 3.1 also introduced the admin bar that now allows users to jump from backend to frontend easily.
In 2011 already, WordPress was powering 50 million blogs. And in 2013, WordPress gets a new look, for the first time since Davis, with the release of WordPress 3.8. Looks familiar?
Since then, Automattic continued investing in techs and companies that make WordPress the amazing tool we know today. WordPress itself has also gone through a ton of updates. The latest WordPress version available as of May 2020 is WordPress 5.4 – “Adderley”, which already underwent two updates.
Tech behind WordPress
WordPress is an open-source CMS, operating under the Free Software Foundation license, GPLv2. Development-wise it is based on the scripting language PHP (an acronym from Hypertext Processor), and – for obvious reasons – it uses the relational database MySQL. For the most part, WordPress is free to use and since the GPL license affects “derivative” works, so are most of WordPress’ plugins and themes.
We already discussed the multitude of WordPress themes available, But, WordPress also offers thousands of plugins, mostly for free. However, everyone needs to cover bills, so the free version of most plugins come with limitations.
Nevertheless, every theme and plugin is highly customizable, so it fits each site’s needs. Not to mention that developers can easily build their own, and WordPress will have no issue running it. Literally, WordPress lets you do whatever you want.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
WordPress, like most web development libraries today, is divided between the backend-side and the client-side. The backend-side is published on WordPress.org as open source files and is the technology we have been talking about so far. This is what developers – our team included – use to build self-hosted sites. Simply put, this side of WordPress involves actual coding. So developers have to install WordPress on their machines and use it as they would any other development tool.
For the non-technical users, who just want a fast solution, there is WordPress.com, and it requires absolutely no coding. Based on the same idea and the same technology, the “.com” version is the for-profit side of Automattic’s WordPress. However, the pricing is extremely affordable, starting with a free account for completely new users.
The free accounts are very limited functionality-wise, but it is an excellent way to get a feel about WordPress. Then, depending on the site’s needs, users get different options ranging from about $4 a month for the personal plan. However, since your website can make or break your business, we strongly recommend you consult an expert before setting up your own site.
For the past 17 years, WordPress has increasingly become an incremental part of the digital world. There is simply no way to measure how many companies and people WordPress has touched since they launched version 0.7, but one thing is sure, it is here to stay.
The fact is, more than a third of the worlds’ websites benefit from this technology. It is affordable, it is community-driven, it is fun and flexible. More than a web development tool, WordPress is a friend.