Like many of the web’s greatest success stories, WordPress has come from humble beginnings – starting from a single piece of code in 2003, designed to enhance the look and feel and layout of everyday blogging projects, to an international platform used by almost half of the top blogs in the world.
It’s amazing what can happen in a decade. Since 2003, WordPress has grown from a veritably unknown platform used by merely a handful of people, to the largest self-hosting blogging platform in the world. Today marks the WordPress 10th Anniversary – and all over the world, WordPress enthusiasts will meet up, celebrate, and share stories about their own WordPress journeys.
To celebrate the anniversary, we take a look back at the evolution of WordPress over the past decade…
Where it all began
Well, Textpattern looks like everything I could ever want, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be licensed under something politically I could agree with. Fortunately, b2/cafelog is GPL, which means that I could use the existing codebase to create a fork, integrating all the cool stuff that Michel would be working on right now if only he was around. The work would never be lost, as if I fell of the face of the planet a year from now, whatever code I made would be free to the world, and if someone else wanted to pick it up they could. I’ve decided that this is the course of action I’d like to go in, now all I need is a name. What should it do? Well, it would be nice to have the flexibility of MovableType, the parsing of TextPattern, the hackability of b2, and the ease of setup of Blogger. Someday, right?
Mike Little, commenting from around 850 kilometres away in England, responded:
Matt,?If you’re serious about forking b2 I would be interested in contributing. I’m sure there are one or two others in the community who would be too. Perhaps a post to the B2 forum, suggesting a fork would be a good starting point.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Matt and Mike were soon collaborating on b2 fork that would launch the single piece of code that has over the years transformed into the platform millions of users know and love.
WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPLv2 (or later). It is the official successor of b2/cafelog. WordPress is fresh software, but its roots and development go back to 2001.
The evolution of an open source legend
WordPress has evolved a lot over the past 10 years, and each release has seen the platform transform into a bigger, better, slicker and more user-friendly CMS, leading to an exponential increase in WordPress websites being built every year.
Because WordPress’ key developers share a passion for jazz music, all major releases of WordPress since version 1.0 have been codenamed in honour of some of the all time great jazz musicians – from Miles Davis to Ella Fitzgerald. In fact, the tradition of naming releases after jazz greats has been broken only once, in 2006, with the release of WordPress 2.0.5. This version was named Ronan in a congratulatory nod to Ryan Boren after the birth of his son – the first WP baby.
Here’s a look back at the major releases in the evolution of WordPress over the past decade.
Click this image to view full size…
Davis, released 3 January 2004
WordPress 1.0 marked the first version of the software to be named after a famous jazz musician – in this case one of the most revered American jazz trumpeters and composers, Miles Davis (1926 – 1991). This release added features designed to match the leading tool in the market at that time, which was Movable Type. These features included search engine friendly permalinks, multiple categories, super-simple installation and upgrade, comment moderation and more.
Blakey, released 11 March 2004
Following soon after the ambitious Davis release, which was found to have a few significant bugs that weren't caught in testing, the 1.0.2 release was named after jazz drummer Art Blakey (1919 – 1990), who was one of the architects of the modern bebop style of drumming. The Blakey WordPress release was developed to stabilise the system, and included a number of fixes.
Mingus, released 22 May 2004
Named for jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader Charles Mingus (1922 – 1979), who was often referred to as The Angry Man of Jazz, WordPress’ Mingus 1.2 release featured added support of plugins, custom fields, thumbnail creation, sub-categories, encrypted passwords, comment management tools and much more. Mingus was released soon after Movable Type’s licensing issues saw many users looking for a new system to move to, and represented a fully mature product with features above and beyond other tools in the market. Version 1.2 was used by an order of magnitude more people than any other release.
Strayhorn, released 17 February 2005
Featuring multiple theme support, static pages, dashboard and a better admin interface, WordPress 1.5 was named after jazz composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn (1915 – 1967). More than 12,000 users had already downloaded WordPress in the lead up to the Strayhorn launch, and at the time of the official version release, Matt Mullenweg described 1.5 as the “most user-focused development ever”. In his announcement, Mullenweg said:
We’ve listened closely to your requests, complaints, praise, pleas, and we’ve done our best to address these both in the core and through enabling plugin authors more flexibility. Any sentence that started “I love WordPress except for…” was fuel for the fire.
Duke, released 26 December 2005
Named in honour of composer, big-band leader and pianist Duke Ellington (1899 – 1974), WordPress’ 2.0 release featured a completely redesigned backend with a new focus on aesthetics and usability, a faster admin, WYSIWYG editing, theme header customisation, user Metadata and more.
Ella, released 22 January 2007
WordPress version 2.1, which was named after the Queen of Jazz, vocalist Ella Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996), was an extensive enhancement and bug fix release. The Ella release’s most notable features included autosave to stave off lost posts, a visual editor including spell checking, a new tabbed editor to allow users to swap between WYSIWYG and code editing instantly while writing a post, and the ability for users to set any “page” to be the front page of their site while putting the latest posts somewhere else – making it much easier to use WordPress as a content management system. There were an estimated 1.4 million downloads of WordPress 2.1 in the four months it was available.
Getz, released 16 May 2007
Featuring widgets integration and in excess of 200 bug fixes, the 2.2 release was named for jazz tenor saxophonist Stan Getz (1927 – 1991). The introduction of WordPress widgets allowed users to easily rearrange and customise areas such as sidebars with drag-and-drop simplicity – further solidifying the platform’s place as one of the top content management systems of choice. Other features included full Atom support, a new Blogger importer, infinite comment stream, and protection from activating a plugin or editing a file that would break users’ blogs.
Dexter, released 24 September 2007
Named after another tenor saxophonist, Dexter Gordon (1923 – 1990), who was often referred to as the Sophisticated Giant, WordPress’ 2.3 release included some exciting features, such as native tagging support, plugin update notification, URL handling improvements, and new advanced WYSIWYG functionality. Another notable addition was the pending review feature, designed for multi-author blogs and allowing authors to submit a post for review by an editor or administrator, rather than simply saving a post as a draft.
Brecker, released 29 March 2008
WordPress’ 2.5 release was the culmination of six months of work by the WordPress community, and was largely based on user feedback. Named in honour of saxophonist and composer Michael Brecker (1949 – 2007), this version featured a cleaner, faster and less-cluttered dashboard, the introduction of dashboard widgets, tag management, built-in galleries, a friendlier visual post editor, and a password strength meter. The addition of concurrent editing protection for users of multi-author blogs as also a well-received feature – protecting users from overwriting each others’ work while editing the same posts.
Tyner, released 15 July 2008
The release of WordPress version 2.6, named after jazz pianist and John Coltrane Quartet member McCoy Tyner (1938 – present), contained features which once again positioned WordPress as a more powerful CMS. These included the ability to track changes to every post and page, theme previews so users could view their theme complete with their content before making it live, and the ability for users to easily post from wherever they were on the web. Other smaller, but still notable, features and improvements included the inclusion of a word counter, image captions, bulk management of plugins, customisable default avatars, and fixes for almost 200 bugs.
Coltrane, 10 December 2008
Boasting a striking new interface, WordPress’ 2.7 release was named for jazz saxophonist, composer and free jazz pioneer John Coltrane (1926 – 1967). The development aimed to make almost every task achievable in fewer clicks – resulting in a WordPress that was just “plain faster” for users. The dashboard featured a drag and drop so users could arrange the tools most important to them on top – but this was just the beginning. Every screen became customisable, demonstrating this release’s unrelenting focus on the user. It was a shift that Matt Mullenweg cited at the time of release as being “the next generation of WordPress”.
Baker, released 10 June 2009
Changing the way WordPress handled style and scripting and described simply as “way faster”, version 2.8 was named in honour of noted jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist and vocalist Chet Baker (1929 – 1988). The update allowed users to browse the entire theme directory and install a new theme with one click direct from the dashboard. It also featured a complete overhaul of the widgets interface, syntax highlighting, improved database performance, and more.
Carmen, released 18 December 2009
Named after vocalist, composer, pianist and actress Carmen McRae (1920 – 1994), WordPress’ 2.9 release included code from ore than 140 contributors and was designed to make the entire WordPress user experience smoother. Some of the most notable features included a global undo trash option to negate the damage of accidental post deletions, easier video embeds, batch plugins updates and compatibility checking, and a built-in image editor to allow users to crop, rotate, flip and scale images.
Thelonious, released 17 June 2010
The release of version 3.0 marked the 13th major release of WordPress and the culmination of half a year of work by more than 200 contributors. Named for the uniquely improvisational bebop and hard bop jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk (1917 – 1982), this release included a whopping 1217 bug fixes and feature enhancements. The long-awaited merge of MU and WordPress introduced a new multi-site functionality that made it possible for users to run virtually as many blogs as their hearts desired from the same installation. Other notable offerings included a new custom menu management feature, contextual help, bulk updating of themes, support for shortlinks and a lighter admin colour scheme to emphasis a focus on content.
Reinhardt, released 23 February 2011
Version 3.1, named in honour of one of the first legendary European jazz musicians and guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910 – 1953), featured a redesigned linking workflow to allow users to easily link to their existing posts and pages, and a streamlined writing interface that allowed user to hide many of their seldom-used panels to create a simpler and less intimidating writing experience – particularly useful for new bloggers. Other key highlights included a button dedicated to internal linking, streamlined password reset processes, improved theme searching and browsing, and simplified post/page edit screens.
Gershwin, released 4 July 2011
The 3.2 version of WordPress focused on making the platform faster and lighter, offering a refreshed dashboard that tightened the typography, design, and code behind the admin, and a new distraction-free writing or ‘Zen’ mode, which saw all of the widgets, menus, buttons, and interface elements to fade away, allowing users to compose and edit their content in a clean environment most conducive to writing. Named after the composer and pianist George Gershwin (1898 – 1937), whose most famous musical compositions included Porgy and Bess, this version also featured faster page loads and upgrades.
Sonny, released 12 December 2011
Offering a new drag-and-drop uploader, improved co-editing support, Tumblr importer, hover menus for the navigation and a new toolbar, WordPress’ 3.3 release was named for bebop and hard bop saxophonist Sonny Stitt (1924 – 1982), who is frequently recognised as one of the best-documented saxophonists of his generation, recording more than 100 albums. Highlights of the release also included a single upload button file type detection, responsive design for iPad and tablet screens, and new feature pointers, which were designed to assist users in navigating new features and thus improving the overall user experience.
Green, released 13 June 2012
Named in honour of jazz guitarist and composer Grant Green (1935 – 1979), who is often cited as one of the great unsung heroes of jazz guitar, WordPress’ 3.4 release showcased significant improvements to theme customisation, custom headers, Twitter embeds, and image captions. The theme customiser crucially allowed users to manipulate various looks and settings such as colours, background and image headers within their current theme – or one they might have considered switching to – without publishing those changes to the web. Other improvements included the support of HTML in image captions, faster theme searching and more.
Elvin, released 11 December 2012
The most recent major release at the time of WordPress’ 10th Anniversary, version 3.5 was named after jazz drummer, and another member of the John Coltrane Quartet, Elvin Jones (1927 – 2004). This release featured a completely re-imagined and streamlined interface for uploading photos and creating galleries, a refreshed style of dashboard, a new colour picker, and support for Apple’s Retina Display by making everything retina-ready with high-resolution graphics. In the days leading up to the WordPress 10th Anniversary, WordPress 3.5 had been downloaded more than 20 million times.
The future for WordPress
WordPress began as only a blogging system, but over the past decade has evolved into a full content management system limited only by the imaginations of users, as so impeccably illustrated by the thousands of user-created plugins, widgets and themes used worldwide for further WordPress customisation.
Tech commentators do their best to try and predict the future of web giants such as WordPress, and although nothing (online or otherwise) is ever certain, it’s safe to assume from WordPress’ continued growth, development and user uptake that its place as the platform of choice won’t be under threat any time soon.
Matt Mullenweg recently discussed The State of Blogging in 2013 at the March SXSW, touching on the effects of social media on blogging, and suggesting that, rather than encouraging people to move away from blogging in favour of shorter form posting, social media networks have given rise to a whole new tribe of bloggers – those who may not have been comfortable with blogging previously, but have became comfortable with online publishing via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
No matter what the future has in store for WordPress, there is no denying the powerful effect the platform has had on the web over the past decade. For that, WordPress, we salute you. Happy 10th Anniversary.
Did you celebrate the WordPress 10th Anniversary at a Meetup? We’d love to see, and perhaps publish, some of your best photos, so please link to them in the comments section below, or tweet them to us at @wpthemesnz and @Nikki_Beecroft.