WordPress at 15 – A Look Back at the History of WordPress

WordPress, which was first released in 2003 by creators Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little as a replacement for existing blogging software b2/cafelog, just celebrated its 15th anniversary in May of 2018.

The platform is now one of the most popular blogging platforms and content management systems (CMS) in the world. Consequently, nearly 33% of all websites online use the WordPress platform. That’s 75 MILLION websites! And while there is no Aaron Sorkin film about the WordPress story, the struggles and triumphs of WordPress are the stuff movies are made of.

A Brief History of WordPress

WordPress started like many other tech companies, with a big idea to fix a problem. The problem, Moveable Type, the only blogging platform at the time, was difficult to customize. Unless of course, you were a developer.

In 2000, a blogger named Michel Valdrighi used PHP to create b2, an open source blogging software, which led to a community of bloggers worldwide.

Matt Mullenweg, a college student, had installed the b2 or cafelog blogging system for personal use, only to discover Valdrighi abandoned the project in 2002. For this reason, on April 1st, 2003, Matt took it on himself to create a new branch of b2 on SourceForge with the help of Mike Little.

First launched as WordPress 0.7 on May 27th, 2003, and then quickly followed up with a major update (WordPress 1.0) in January 2004. This new update contained a new admin interface, new templates and it also generated XHTML 1.1 compliant themes.

In the same year, Ryan Boren developed the plugin system, which would change the platform forever. And version 1.2 was launched, wherein users could write their own plugins and share it with the blogging community.

Eventually, they discovered the GNU General Public License (GPL) and announced that WordPress would be free and an open-source software to be distributed with few restrictions.

WordPress provided the freedom to run or change the program for any purpose, the freedom to redistribute copies to help your neighbor and the freedom to distribute copies of your modified version to others.


WordPress Version Update Chronology

2003 – WordPress is launched.

2005 – Marked quite a few changes in WordPress, as it launched its first theme named Kubrick. In October 2005, Mullenweg created the Akismet comment spam filter for WordPress, which still remains the most popular comment spam protector. WordPress also came out with its Duke 2.0 update in December, which was a major overhaul of the admin dashboard with improved speed and efficiency in post and image uploading. The users no longer needed to reload the page every time for adding simple features or for seeing new comments and it also enabled users to add tags to their post. WordPress.com was officially launched, along with the commercial entity named Automattic.

2006 – The trademark registration for WordPress and the logo was filed. The first annual WordCamp was held in San Francisco for users and developers to discuss all things WordPress.

2007 – The 2.1 version of WordPress was developed with a new user interface, autosave, and spell check. From 2008-2009 there was some high-end development in WordPress, including Happy-Cog-led redesign, the launch of WordPress Theme Directory where themes were made available for visitors for free and the introduction of the WordPress 2.8 Baker version.

2010 – 3.0 Thelonious was released for customizations of content types on WordPress. Earlier there were only posts, pages and taxonomies; now you could use custom fields and add key-value pairs to describe any object. WordPress developed into a true CMS with its extended functionalities from the core WordPress install.

February of 2011 – WordPress came out with 3.1 Reinhardt update showcasing a new look admin bar which made access to any page’s backend easy while logged-in to your site, updated Post Formats, and archives for custom post types. In 2012 features like theme customizer, theme previews and new image gallery managers were introduced in WordPress.

January 2013 – WordPress introduced the 3.8 Parker update with MP6, the brand-new looking Dashboard, and responsive admin interface. WordPress now worked really well even on a mobile or tablet device, irrespective of the screen size.

2014 – the core team released the WordPress 3.9 Smith update, wherein WordPress addressed future automatic version updates. It also improved the visual post editor in WordPress to allow previews of galleries and helped webmasters use the HipHop Virtual Machine. In September, the WordPress 4.0 update, or Benny, was released to make uploading media easier and also made embeds a more seamless and visual process.

August 2015 – WordPress 4.3, or Billie, was introduced with its focus on customization (Customize button added to the front end of the site) and formatting (comments could be turned off on pages), and it made available the menu tools right in the customizer.

2016 – WordPress 4.5, or Coleman, was introduced, and provided users with formatting shortcuts, custom logos, smart image resizing options, added inline linking to streamline the workflow, JavaScript library updates, selective refresh, and also gave us the Preview button.

2017 – WordPress 4.8, or Evans, changed how links were handled in the editor with the introduction of link boundaries, an improvement in existing widgets and new ones to showcase content, images, and branding (image widget, video widget, and audio widget.). The following version WordPress 4.9, or Tipton, expanded functionality with the introduction of many new widgets like audio, video, images, galleries, rich text and HTML. These were the base for the Gutenberg block editor to be released in 2018.

2018 – with the release of WordPress 5.0 we were introduced to a completely new editing experience. The Gutenberg block editor replaced TinyMCE; the new page builder uses standardized blocks for content creation to make it easier for people of all technical backgrounds to create rich web content.

What’s next for WordPress?

WordPress continues to dominate the CMS space with over 58% of the market share. Its success can be attributed to its undeniable focus on solving user problems and making it easy for millions of publishers to create great web content. It’s safe to say that WordPress will continue to look to its users for inspiration and will sure to impress us with new technologies and solutions.

Be sure to test the update on a copy of your site (staging / local) before moving it to your live site.

You can read our blog article to know more about the exciting new features on offer with Gutenberg WordPress Editor.