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The History of WordPress

Do you want to know where 43% of the websites on the Internet came from? Well, the short answer to this is WordPress! Millions of people use WordPress, and it’s a convenient platform to design and develop their websites and upload their content.

Introducing templates and plugins to the website design industry, people did not need HTML-based software to manage the content on their websites, which made blogging and internet marketing accessible to more people. But where did it all come from? In this article, we will walk with WordPress on its long and arduous journey to where it is today.

What is WordPress?

What can you do with WordPress.jpg

WordPress is one of the many content management systems out there. But it’s also one of the most commonly used. People usually use popular content management systems to manage their websites and blogs include Joomla, Drupal, Sitecore, Magento, and Umbraco. WordPress’s closest competition is Drupal, which controls 19% of the websites. In contrast, Joomla has only 1% of the market share.

In comparison to the 43% of the market share that WordPress has, you could say that WordPress is the ruling system for content management. Another important point about WordPress is that it’s an open-source system. It means that hundreds of developers are dedicated to its development and upkeep. That is why WordPress is free to use.

The Beginning of WordPress

WordPress started with a fork. A fork is when developers take resources from a code and build on it. Everything took place when the French developer, Michel Valdrighi, decided to shut down his blogging tool called b2/cafelog. In 2002, he sent an email to 19-year-old Matt Mullenweg and his friend Mike Little, telling them they could use b2/cafelog’s resources if they wanted to. This resulted in the release of the first version of WordPress in 2003.

2004, Versions 1.1 and 1.2

The original version of WordPress was met with a lot of enthusiasm. People started trusting and using WordPress because not only it was free, but it also didn’t have any of the annoying limitations that other tools had. Therefore, in the following year, several other developers joined the team. 2004 was also the year that the plugin system was introduced into WordPress. This new system allowed people to build their own plugins and share them with the other users on the platform.

One more development that WordPress saw this year was the community that was slowly taking root in the heart of the system. It started as a hub for announcing all the changes in the platform. This hub lived on to become one of the largest communities in the world of developers.

2005, Version 1.5

2005 brought on a new version of WordPress. This new version had two distinctive features that are worth mentioning. First was the ability to preview the changes before publishing them on the website. This was an essential improvement for the users and resulted in over 900,000 downloads of the new version.

Another great feature of WordPress 1.5 was the new theme, called Kubrick. Kubrick completely revolutionized the theme system of WordPress. These recent changes also inspired a host of media attention to WordPress. People were talking about it, there were podcasts, tutorials, and interviews about the new features, and tips and tricks were published. In short, it was the buzz of the year for web developers and website admins.

Version 2.0 of WordPress was introduced in December 2005. This WordPress had a new administrative panel that made content upload much easier and more user-friendly. Admins now could add tags and categories to their posts and make their whole website more accessible. This new WordPress also had a more advanced comment management system that helped the audience leave their comments more efficiently.

2006, WordPress Logo and First WordCamp

WordCamp About page

2006 was more of a business year for WordPress. WordPress’s co-founder, Matt Mullenweg, started a new company called Automattic. The new company helped register the WordPress brand name and logo. WordPress’s audience was growing rapidly, and WordPress’s famous blue logo was becoming known all throughout the world.

This year also hosted the first WordCamp in San Francisco. WordCamp is an annual informal event where developers from various countries gather together to share ideas about WordPress and discuss the new updates that have been introduced recently. Today, in January 2023, there are multiple events held in cities in the US, Italy, India, France, Indonesia, and many other countries.

2007, Versions 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3

The WordPress user interface changed, and some new features were added. This new WordPress established Matt Mullenweg as the 16th most important person on the web. He was also given the Packt Best Open-Source CMS award because of the ease with which people could use the platform and its impact on freedom of speech.

WordPress version 2.1 was called Ella in honor of Elle Fitzgerald, the famous jazz musician. The features added to WordPress Ella included spellcheck for the posts, autosave, and search engine privacy. In addition, people who used WordPress Ella could switch from word to code more efficiently. Some of the new features that were also added for developers were new hooks and APIs and new language improvements.

Version 2.2 brought optimizations for the platform’s speed, plugins, and filters. This version also supported SMTP mail because of the phpMailer version.

Version 2.3 came with tagging and update notifications. There was also a new taxonomy system and updates to the new jQuery version.

Two more significant events happened in 2007. WordPress was subject to the first security breach, which put the developers on their guard to protect the system more vigilantly. The other significant event of 2007 was the acquisition of Gravatar by Matt Mullenweg and his company, Automattic. This was the first acquisition that Automattic made, and it resulted in the existence of pictured avatars in the WordPress system.

2008, versions 2.5, 2.6 and 2.7

In 2008, a new company called Happy Cog joined WordPress. The result of this collaboration was the new WordPress administration interface that improved the user experience to a large degree. This year also brought more awards for Matt Mullenweg. He received the Information Technology Innovator award and the Overall Best Open-Source CMS Award for his work on the WordPress platform. In addition, the new versions, described in the following paragraphs, had great results in testing surveys.

Version 2.5 allowed users to have multiple uploads. Also, with Happy Cog’s help, new short code APIs were introduced to the latest version. A password strength meter also helped users be more secure while entering their accounts.

Version 2.6 came with the ability to see post revisions and the famous WordPress feature called “press this.”

Version 2.7 was an important one because most of the bugs caused by the previous updates were solved. This version also had several new features. In this version, the administration UI was redesigned, and some admin tools became customizable. Some of the other new features of this version were built-in plugin installation, sticky posts, comment replies, and bulk management.

2009, Versions 2.8 and 2.9

In 2009, some significant features were introduced. In version 2.8, themes and widgets were upgraded, and a new CodePress editor was introduced to make the way easier for developers. There were two new versions of WordPress this year:

Version 2.9’s most significant improvement was its SEO features. But an essential built-in image editor was added to the platform. Users could now automatically upgrade their system and bulk update their widgets. Another important feature of version 2.9 was the ability to use gallery images and create user profiles. SSL support, tag clouds, WP Query, and HTTP requests were the other features that people used for the first time in version 2.9.

2010, Version 3.0

2010 was an important year for Matt Mullenweg as the founder of WordPress. Why? Because this was the year Mat turned thirty and could finally become the official CEO of WordPress. In 2010, Automattic finalized the WordPress trademark and logo transfer to the WordPress Foundation. This was also the year he brought home Digital Synergy’s Hall of Fame award in the CMS Category.

WordPress also went through two other significant events in 2010. First, they started a collaboration with Microsoft in which Microsoft shut down Windows Live Spaces Blogs and directed all the blogs to become WordPress websites. And second, GlotPress was founded as a division of Automattic. This company was to focus on the local and international presence of WordPress.

Version 3.0 of WordPress came with many different changes. All in all, this version was all about customizations. For the first time, admins and bloggers could customize their post types, taxonomies, backgrounds, headers, and menus.

Admins could also access contextual help about all the new options and, of course, the new default theme, Twenty Ten. Two other vital improvements to the WordPress system were then the number of bulk plugin updates was increased to 15 at a time. Also, for the first time, the MultiSite feature was introduced in WordPress. MultiSite allowed admins to run and manage multiple websites on the platform.

2011, Versions 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3

2011 brought yet another award for Matt Mullenweg and his work on WordPress. He won the Bossie Award for Best Open Source Software in 2010. But this is not all; WordPress managed to reach over 65 million downloads in this year and own about 12% of all websites around the world. This leap in success and popularity was partly because of the introduction of eCommerce to the platform. Small businesses and online shops could join the WordPress family with this new feature.

Version 3.1 had significant improvements to the post formats and the Amin bar. These changes made the administrators’ job much easier and more efficient.

Version 3.2 came with a brand-new default theme called the Twenty-Eleven Theme. The new WordPress was much lighter and faster, allowing developers to use PHP 5.2.4 and MYSQL 5.0.15. and finally, some changes were made to the comments section. Admins now had a comment moderation screen that made their job more streamlined.

Version 3.3 made the whole system much easier to handle for new users who had no experience in coding or using a WordPress platform. The drag-and-drop uploader added in this version also made creating media-rich websites much more straightforward.

Another critical change in this version was the ability to co-edit the pages. This allowed two or more people to work on a single website without disrupting each other’s work. There were significant improvements to the toolbars, and the whole system became more efficient for people who wanted to use it on their touchscreen iPads.

2012, Versions 3.4 and 3.5

In 2012, Matt Mullenweg was listed as Forb’s 30 under 30 in Media. There were now over 70 million sites using WordPress, and 40% of the most popular blogs in the world were based on this system. So, it’s safe to say that WordPress was on its way to the top, and few competitors could come toe to toe.

Version 3.4 had serval significant changes in it. First, admins were now about to preview the changes they had made on the theme customizer before applying them. Second, a media library was added to the system, making it easier for media-heavy websites to exist and work. Third, the image editor had some new features in which you could choose the height and width of the pictures. And last but not least, developers could use the XML and RPC, a custom header was added to the API, and the WP Query was improved.

Version 3.5 came with Twitter embeds and image captions, making the user experience much more fun. Theme Twenty Twelve was introduced, which was also optimized for mobile screens. Admins in this version could create their photo galleries and optimize their photo uploads. And because this version was all about enhanced graphics, the display on version 3.5 was Retina-Ready and supported high-resolution graphics.

2013, Versions 3.6, 3.7 and 3.8

WordPress dominated about 50% of the CMS market by this time, requiring better maintenance and higher security. On the other side, Automattic was able to acquire some new companies: Simperium, which was a note-keeping app for coders, Longreads, which was a News aggregator; and Scroll Kit, which was a visual editor.

Version 3.6 came with the new default theme, Theme Twenty Thirteen. This new version has built-in audio and visual support and dynamic revisions, which made it much more efficient for multimedia websites. This version also had a built-in HTML5 media player and support for metadata.

Version 3.7 had three crucial features: automatic updates, a more robust password meter, and better language support.

Version 3.8 had a new default theme as well: Theme Twenty-Fourteen. This was the first time two themes were introduced in the same year. But what made admins really happy about this version was the new admin panel called MP6. In this new panel, the widget section was more user-friendly, and new color schemes were added to the admin dashboard. Many users believed version 3.8 was the most beautiful update WordPress had ever had.

2014, Versions 3.9, 4.0, and 4.1

WordPress has always procured vast amounts of funding right from the beginning. But in 2014, they managed to get $1 million in funds which was a stounding amount because WordPress Foundation had only 256 employees at the time. This was also the first year that non-English downloads of the software exceeded English downloads.

Version 3.9 enabled admins to preview widgets and headers interactively before applying them. There was also a new audio and video playlist that made media management much easier for the users. And finally, this version improved the panel’s visual editor.

Version 4.0 had a much better search experience. However, this was a feature to be improved much more extensively in the following years. This version also had YouTube embed abilities that allowed admins to enter a YouTube URL and easily embed the video on their posts.

Version 4.1 was a critical one. This version made WordPress the first platform to put REST API in place. 4.1 also had a new theme called Twenty-Fifteen. This theme was backed by Google’s NOTO font family, making it easier for users and admins to use. Another feature of 4.1 was that it had a set of recommended plugins, making selection less challenging for admins.

2015, Versions 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4

2015 was another critical year for WordPress because it received the CMS Critic’s Ward for the Best CMS for Personal Websites. What’s more, Automattic managed to acquire WooCommerce, which made a massive difference in the eCommerce version of the platform.

Version 4.2 was the first version that came with emoji support. Emojis and generally more extended characters made it easier for content creators to write their articles in the WordPress editor. This version also had embeds for Tumbler and Kickstarter.

Version 4.3 had List Views in the admin panel, a much-awaited change. Admins could also preview the live menu and format the shortcuts. Yes, WordPress was going towards becoming an even more user-friendly platform.

Theme Twenty-Sixteen accompanied version 4.4. This version had a much better integration of REST API. In this version, posts came with rich previews, and there were major improvements to the query and term metadata sections.

2016, Versions 4.5, 4.6, and 4.7

In 2016, WordPress announced that would now support all HTTPS. This also brought fresh rounds of funding to the company.

Version 4.5 had several exciting changes in it. The Customizer panel came with responsive previews for different screen sizes, custom logos were now supported, and a smart image resizer was added to the toolbar.

Version 4.6 improved the MultiSite system, allowing cashed and complete site queries. Also, the plugin update process was streamlined to one screen only.

Version 4.7 had a new default theme called Theme Twenty Seventeen. This theme came with two main features: starter content and a video header. Also, post templates were now available for all post types, and content recovery was made possible using the browser storage. Developers also saw some improvements to the REST API and custom CSS.

2017, Versions 4.8 and 4.9

2017 comes with some good and some bad news. The good news was that WordPress won Infoworld’s award for the Best Open-Source Software in the Blog Publishing section. The bad news was that the REST API had some security vulnerabilities.

Version 4.8 had some new widgets. What’s more, the admin dashboard had event streams added to it. There were also some new accessibility enhancements.

Version 4.9 was the one in which the Gutenberg project was tested for the first time. This version had code syntax checking and error reporting for the first time. Developers could now save their design draft and see a preview of it before the final launch. Another cool feature of this version for developers is the CodeMirror text editor, which made it easier for them to change small code sections. Version 4.9 was optimized for media-rich websites as well.

2018, Version 5.0

2018 came with a lot of turmoil for WordPress. With the introduction of the Gutenberg editor, many users used social media to voice their dissatisfaction and unhappiness about the new platform.

Version 5.0 of WordPress had Theme Twenty Nineteen with it. There was also the project Gutenberg which created blocking in which a single post could be edited. These blocks improved the customizability of the blocks within a single post. Theme Twenty Nineteen also supported 37 languages and had easier embeds.

2019, Versions 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3

2019 was all about debugging the new editing blocks that came with Gutenberg. Also, some security issues had to be addressed. Version 5.1 had developments in the performance of the platform.

Version 5.2 focused on the developers and making their jobs easier. In addition, some new tools were introduced for finding and resolving configuration issues and fatal errors.

Version 5.3 has a huge project accomplished with the collaboration of 645 volunteer developers. This version tried to refine the block editor system and address the issues mentioned by the users. It also put more time and energy into the accessibility improvements of the system.

Theme Twenty Twenty was introduced in this version. This was the first version that came with a site health check option. With the help of this option, admins got a notification whenever they had an outdated PHP code in their script. They also could log into the system and fix the issue in case a White Screen of Death occurred.

2020, Versions 5.4, 5.5, and 5.6

According to the data published in 2020, WordPress ruled 33% of all the websites in the world during this time. Also, this was the year that full-site editing became available to people for the first time.

Version 5.4 had a new welcome guide for people using WordPress for the first time and did not know much about coding or the WordPress system. What’s more, rich embedded media was enabled in this version.

Version 5.5 enabled auto-updates for themes as well as major releases after many years and even more requests from users. This version also had inline image editing and was generally faster and more secure than all the other versions. Default XML sitemaps were also added to version 5.5.

Version 5.6 came with Theme Twenty Twenty-One. This version applied some improvements to the block editor and support for PHP8.

2021, Versions 5.7 and 5.8

2021 brought on more fame and fortune to the WordPress platform. By this year, over 42% of all websites worldwide were based on WordPress, and the top 10 million websites used this platform. This year also hosted two crucial updates to make WordPress more user-friendly and efficient.

Version 5.7 had some fresh colors that admins could use in designing their themes and posts. There were also some layout changes, and the editing blocks could be moved and customized with a simple drag-and-drop movement. And most importantly, users of this version could migrate from HTTP to HTTPS with a single click.

Version 5.8 included more customization abilities for the editor blocks and widgets. Another new feature of this version was Query Loop Block. This feature allowed users to see the posts based on their chosen criteria. Finally, this version no longer supported Internet Explorer 11.

2022, Versions 5.9, 6.0 and 6.1

2022 and Theme Twenty Twenty-Two. After all these years, the constant improvements and upgrades to the system, and success after success, we cannot expect WordPress to stop now. This year we have had two major updates so far, and the new versions have brought on new features to the platform.

Version 5.9 came along with some shifts in the user experience. The pattern directors have been renewed, the List View panel and the Gallery block have been upgraded, and a new navigation block has been added. Theme Twenty Twenty-Two also comes with full site editing capabilities, which frees people from the burden of learning coding to edit their website.

Version 6.0 has a global style switcher. In this system, theme authors can design and post several versions of the same theme on their platforms. This version also has a better export theme functionality, further facilitating this process. Also, one of the major bugs of the Gutenberg editor has been fixed, and admins can now select their text that is spread in various blocks. And finally, version 6.0 includes a block lock UI that helps multiple editors stay out of each other’s work and not disrupt each other’s processes.

Version 6.1 mainly focuses on performance.

2023, Versions 6.2, 6.3 and 6.4

WordPress 6.4, named “Shirley” in honor of jazz artist Shirley Horn, introduces a variety of updates and new features designed to enhance the user experience for content creators and developers. Key highlights include:

  1. Twenty Twenty-Four Theme: A versatile new default theme with over 35 templates and patterns, catering to different use cases like writers, artists, and entrepreneurs. It offers remarkable flexibility for almost any type of site.
  2. Content Creation Enhancements: New keyboard shortcuts, smarter list merging, and improved link settings for a smoother writing experience. Blocks like Navigation, List, and Quote feature a cohesive toolbar for efficiency.
  3. Improved Command Palette: Following its introduction in WordPress 6.3, it has a refreshed design and additional commands for block-specific actions, speeding up the building workflow.
  4. Pattern Categorization and Filtering: Custom categories for organizing patterns and advanced filtering make finding and using patterns more intuitive.
  5. Expanded Design Tools: New design options include background images for Group blocks, consistent image dimensions with placeholder aspect ratios, and adding buttons to Navigation blocks without coding.
  6. Image Enhancements: Lightbox functionality for interactive full-screen image viewing on click, with global or specific image customization.
  7. Group Block Renaming: Custom names for Group blocks help organize content, with visibility in List View.
  8. Image Previews in List View: Visual previews for Gallery and Image blocks make locating images easier.
  9. Pattern Sharing: Import and export custom patterns as JSON files for use across different sites.
  10. Block Hooks: A new developer feature that allows dynamic blocks to be automatically inserted at specific content locations, enhancing the extensibility of block themes.
  11. Performance Improvements: Over 100 performance updates, including template loading enhancements (especially for the Twenty Twenty-Four theme), and optimized script loading strategies.
  12. Accessibility Improvements: List View improvements, aria-label support for the Navigation block, and admin UI enhancements for better accessibility.
  13. PHP Compatibility: PHP 8.1 or 8.2 are recommended for optimal performance with WordPress 6.4.
  14. Attachment Page Changes: Disabling of attachment pages for new installations to streamline the user experience.

Overall, WordPress 6.4 “Shirley” aims to provide a more efficient, flexible, and accessible platform for users of all levels.

The Future of WordPress

There is no reason to believe that WordPress has reached its peak and that there is no more room for improvement. As the users’ needs and requirements change, so does the technology that has to respond to these needs.

There are also versions 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 of WordPress scheduled for the following months and years, and we can only be sure that the new versions will bring us more freedom of design and control over our website.

Final Thoughts

WordPress started from humble beginnings, but the genius of Matt Mullenweg and the dedication of the developer team that has contributed to the system over the years have made it possible to become one of the ruling names in the world of CMS.

Some competitors are trying to catch up to WordPress regarding the number of websites and quality of services. But nobody has come even close to WordPress’s stounding numbers and invaluable success stories.

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