WordPress Anniversary: A Look at the Last 15 Years

3rd June 2018

By The Code Company

WordPress powers some of the most well-known websites in 2018, including TechCrunch, The Walt Disney Company, and The New York Times. More than 30% of all websites are run using the WordPress platform, and it continues to evolve and mature.

WordPress homepage in 2003

When it launched 15 years ago in 2003, it was a simple open-source platform that looked like this:

In honour of their 15th anniversary, we’re taking a look at the history of WordPress and how it came to be the Internet staple it is today.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open source content management system (CMS) that is free to use and modify. That means any developer can create plugins to add functionality or modify how a WordPress website will work.

Ultimately, WordPress allows people to share their content online without having to type out HTML code to adjust design and formatting. The flexible platform is stable, easy-to-use, and built on by hundreds of public plugins.

A brief history of WordPress

WordPress has a public timeline that goes over milestones in their development. We highlight a few key years and what happened to make it our go-to CMS today.

In 2001, the b2/cafelog blogging software was launched. When it was discontinued, two of its users decided to build on it, adding a new admin interface and templates. With that, WordPress was born on May 27, 2003.

As it grew in popularity, the Creators Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little added more functionality and improvements. In 2004, they added Plugin Architecture that allowed anyone to write WordPress plugins that added functionality, and share with other users. WordPress remains open source until today, and currently has more than 55,000 plugins.

WordPress.org website screenshot

Also in 2004, WordPress competitor Movable Type changed their licensing terms. As a result, many of their users sought out alternatives, and found WordPress.

In 2005, they introduced the famous WordPress theme system and static pages. This was a huge move for usability, as it allowed content creators to segment different pages on the backend of their websites.

The user interface of WordPress evolved to look like this;

Old WordPress admin screen

After that, it was a whirlwind of big releases, from new UIs, autosave, spellcheck, widgets, speed optimisation, tagging, update notifications, post revisions, automatic updating, sticky posts, comments, bulk management, image editing, and a trash/undo feature.

In 2006, Automattic filed trademark registration for WordPress and the WordPress logo. Then in 2010, Automattic transferred ownership to the WordPress Foundation, ensuring it isn’t dependent on a single company or group of developers to continue growing WordPress.

This was also the year the first WordCamp was held, to discuss all things WordPress. In 2018, there have been more than 850 WordCamps across 70 cities.

Also in 2010, WordPress version 3.0 (Thelonious) was released. This included custom post types, menu management, and was the first to introduce a new default theme (called “Twenty Ten”). WordPress releases subsequent would have their own default themes, named “Twenty Eleven,” “Twenty Twelve,” and so on.

In 2012, WordPress made it easier for users to work with images and designs, thanks to the theme customizer, theme previews, and new media manager.

By 2013, WordPress became the most popular CMS in the world. It had a responsive interface designed to provide a better UX on any device, and introduced automatic updates for maintenance and security, a strong password meter, and improved search results.

From 2014 to 2016, they continued improving their platform with updates to media and plugin management, a distraction-free writing mode, emoji support, formatting shortcuts in the visual editor, and responsive previews.

WordPress today

Today, WordPress has continued to make updates for usability and to become GDPR compliant. It powers 30% of the web and commands a CMS market share of 60.2%, making them the most popular CMS for the 7th year in a row. More than 500 new websites are being built with WordPress every day, and WordPress.org plugins have been downloaded 1 billion times and counting.

The community behind WordPress remains one of the greatest factors that continue to see the growth and success. It is one of the many reasons we stand behind WordPress.

We anticipate seeing WordPress continue to be used in more and more enterprise and complex instances throughout the internet.