It’s been ten years since we started this thing, and what a long way we’ve come. From a discussion between myself and Mike Little about forking our favorite blogging software, to powering 18% of the web. It’s been a crazy, exciting, journey, and one that won’t stop any time soon.
At ten years, it’s fun to reflect on our beginnings. We launched WordPress on 27th May 2003, but that wasn’t inception. Go back far enough, and you can read a post by Michel Valdrighi who, frustrated by the self-hosted blogging platforms available, decided to write his own software; “b2, a PHP+MySQL alternative to Blogger and GreyMatter.” b2 was easy to install, easy to configure, and easy for developers to extend. Of all the blogging platforms out there, b2 was the right one for me: I could write my content and get it on the web quickly and painlessly.
Sometimes, however, life gets in the way. In 2002, Michel stopped maintaining b2. Over time, security flaws became apparent and updates were needed and, while the b2 community could write patches and fixes, no one was driving the software forward. We were lucky that Michel decided to release b2 under the GPL; the software may have been abandoned, but we weren’t without options. A fork was always a possibility. That was where it stood in January 2003, when I posted about forking b2 and Mike responded. The rest, as they say, is history.
From the very beginning to the present day, I’ve been impressed by the thought, care, and dedication that WordPress’ developers have demonstrated. Each one has brought his or her unique perspective, each individual has strengthened the whole. It would be impossible to thank each of them here individually, but their achievements speak for themselves. In WordPress 1.2 the new Plugin API made it easy for developers to extend WordPress. In the same release
gettext() internationalization opened WordPress up to every language (hat tip: Ryan Boren for spending hours wrapping strings with gettext). In WordPress 1.5 our Theme system made it possible for WordPress users to quickly change their site’s design: there was huge resistance to the theme system from the wider community at the time, but can you imagine WordPress without it? Versions 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9 saw improvements that let users install and update their plugins and themes with one click. WordPress has seen a redesign by happycog (2.3) and gone under extensive user testing and redesign (Crazyhorse, Liz Danzico and Jen Mylo, WordPress 2.5). In WordPress 3.0 we merged WordPress MU with WordPress — a huge job but 100% worth it. And in WordPress 3.5 we revamped the media uploader to make it easier for people to get their images, video, and media online.
In sticking to our commitment to user experience, we’ve done a few things that have made us unpopular. The WYSIWYG editor was hated by many, especially those who felt that if you have a blog you should know HTML. Some developers hated that we stuck with our code, refusing to rewrite, but it’s always been the users that matter: better a developer lose sleep than a site break for a user. Our code isn’t always beautiful, after all, when WordPress was created most of us were still learning PHP, but we try to make a flawless experience for users.
It’s not all about developers. WordPress’ strength lies in the diversity of its community. From the start, we wanted a low barrier to entry and we came up with our “famous 5 minute install”. This brought on board users from varied technical background: people who didn’t write code wanted to help make WordPress better. If you couldn’t write code, it didn’t matter: you could answer a question in the support forums, write documentation, translate WordPress, or build your friends and family a WordPress website. There is space in the community for anyone with a passion for WordPress.
It’s been wonderful to see all of the people who have used WordPress to build their home on the internet. Early on we got excited by switchers. From a community of tinkerers we grew, as writers such as Om Malik, Mark Pilgrim, and Molly Holzschlag made the switch to WordPress. Our commitment to effortless publishing quickly paid off and has continued to do so: the WordPress 1.2 release saw 822 downloads per day, our latest release, WordPress 3.5, has seen 145,692 per day.
I’m continually amazed by what people have built with WordPress. I’ve seen musicians and photographers, magazines such as Life, BoingBoing, and the New York Observer, government websites, a filesystem, mobile applications, and even seen WordPress guide missiles.
As the web evolves, WordPress evolves. Factors outside of our control will always influence WordPress’ development: today it’s mobile devices and retina display, tomorrow it could be Google Glass or technology not yet conceived. A lot can happen in ten years! As technology changes and advances, WordPress has to change with it while remaining true to its core values: making publishing online easy for everyone. How we rise to these challenges will be what defines WordPress over the coming ten years.
To celebrate ten years of WordPress, we’re working on a book about our history. We’re carrying out interviews with people who have involved with the community from the very beginning, those who are still around, and those who have left. It’s a huge project, but we wanted to have something to share with you on the 10th anniversary. To learn about the very early days of WordPress, just after Mike and I forked b2 you can download Chapter 3 right here. We’ll be releasing the rest of the book serially, so watch out as the story of the last ten years emerges.
In the meantime, I penned my own letter to WordPress and other community members have been sharing their thoughts:
You can see how WordPress’ 10th Anniversary was celebrated all over the world by visiting the wp10 website, according to Meetup we had 4,999 celebrators.
To finish, I just want to say thank you to everyone: to the developers who write the code, to the designers who make WordPress sing, to the worldwide community translating WordPress into so many languages, to volunteers who answer support questions, to those who make WordPress accessible, to the systems team and the plugin and theme reviewers, to documentation writers, event organisers, evangelists, detractors, supporters and friends. Thanks to the jazzers whose music inspired us and whose names are at the heart of WordPress. Thanks to everyone who uses WordPress to power their blog or website, and to everyone who will in the future. Thanks to WordPress and its community that I’m proud to be part of.
Thank you. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.
Final thanks to Siobhan McKeown for help with this post.