The Evolution of WordPress
WordPress was launched in 2003 as an open-source publishing platform to help people create their own website or blog. Over the past 15 years, it has evolved into the most popular content management system on the web.
The open source software creates a beautiful website or blog, so it’s hardly surprising it powers an estimated 30% of the entire web, from hobby and leisure blogs to larger online news sites. Perhaps the most amazing aspect is that it’s free to use. As it’s an open source project, hundreds of volunteers across the world are continually creating and improving the software code.
How did WordPress begin?
WordPress began after the development of the popular blogging software b2/cafelog was discontinued by its main developer, French programmer Michel Valdrighi. Two dedicated b2/cafelog users, Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg, decided to build a new platform on top of b2/cafelog.
As a result, WordPress was first released on 27th May 2003. Since then, there have been more than 270 WordPress updates. With more than 35,640 plugins and in excess of 829 million downloads, it’s safe to say its success looks set to continue.
Houston-born Mullenweg was a 19-year-old college freshman at Houston University when he started WordPress from the b2 codebase. On 24th January 2003, he wrote about the project on his blog. Mike Little, a 42-year-old web developer from Stockport in the UK, saw the post and said he would be interested in contributing.
Then the original developer of the b2 codebase, Valdrighi, also got on board and WordPress was officially born.
Over the years, there have been a multitude of changes to WordPress. In 2004, version 1.2 (Mingus) was released – the first version that supported plugins. Version 1.5 (Strayhorn) included a theme system and static page advancements. There were 50,000 downloads of Strayhorn in the first fortnight alone.
By 2006, WordPress supported 119 languages and had been downloaded 2.8 million times. In 2007, version 2.1 (Ella) featured auto-save and spell-check for the first time, and there were up to 200 people working full-time on WordPress.
Version 2.7 (Coltrane) was the third update in 2008 and introduced built-in plugin installation, dashboard screenshots, sticky posts, automatic upgrading and inline documentation. It was downloaded 500,000 times in the first few weeks.
In 2009, version 2.9 (Carmen) included image editing features, bulk plugin features, the trash/undo feature and easier video embeds that enabled users to simply paste a URL on its own line and watch it turn into its own embed code, as if by magic.
By 2011, research showed that WordPress accounted for 22% of all new and active domains. There were also 52 Wordcamp events worldwide, giving people the opportunity to collaborate and put forward new ideas.
Further updates in 2013 included version 3.7 (Basie), introducing automatic maintenance and security updates and improved search function, followed by version 3.8 (Parker) with eight new colour schemes, sidebar widgets and small-screen compatibility.
In 2014, version 4.0 (Benny) launched avatars in the plugin library and media embeds. It also offered the ability to select your choice of language for installation. There were 7.2 million downloads right away.
WordPress 4.5 (Coleman) was released in 2016, introducing a new inline link editing feature and inline text shortcuts. In theme customiser, responsive previews were added, enabling users to preview their theme on mobile, tablet or desktop without changing device.
In 2017, WordPress 4.8 (Vaughan) launched new widgets that added media-like images, video, audio and rich text. A new dashboard widget was also added to display WordPress news and events.
The last major release in 2017 was WordPress 4.9 (Tipton), which added additional features to theme customiser. It also simplified theme/plugin editors and code editing in custom CSS by adding syntax highlighting and auto-completion.
There have been a number of releases in 2018, mostly relating to privacy, security and maintenance, the most recent of which was WordPress 4.9.7, which was the security and maintenance release, on 5th July.
WordPress is continually evolving and growing in popularity. The latest development in the works is Gutenberg, described as a new publishing experience. It will be a way of making the layout, words and pictures look as good on screen as they do in your head – without any code.
The Gutenberg editor will use blocks to create different kinds of content, replacing several inconsistent ways of customising WordPress to bring it into line with modern coding standards, while ensuring it aligns with open web initiatives.
The content blocks will transform how developers, users and hosts interact with WordPress, making building rich web content simpler and more intuitive.
Why choose WordPress?
There are many reasons why WordPress is such a popular choice. The fact it’s open source is a big plus, not only because of the thousands of people working to improve it, but also because it’s free.
It’s also extremely flexible, with thousands of plugins and themes, enabling users to change the entire look of their website or add more features, such as a photo gallery, mailing list or online store. Content can be easily updated and created without having to learn to code.
WordPress is SEO-friendly: your content can be easily optimised for search engines, which is crucial to your site’s visibility and online success.
With WordPress, you’re in control of your own content, unlike some publishing platforms which may limit what you can or can’t do on your own website.
According to research by codeinwp.com, some of the world’s major WordPress users include the New York Post, CNN, NBC, CBS Local and the New York Observer. As the fastest-growing content management system in the world, there are more than 500 new sites being built every day.
Websites need to be well presented to attract interest and to fulfil the user experience. An optimised website design and a framework for future growth are crucial.
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