20 Years of WordPress

In the early days, the web had many beautiful, romantic phases, in which things were simpler and people online, less prone to aggression, more innocent and/or prone to the good things in life.

In the early 2000s, the technical side of the web was also going through an interesting moment. Suddenly, sites went from being static to becoming dynamic.

Among the many systems of that period, on May 27th 2003, a small CMS for blogs called WordPress appeared. It was the beginning of — I think it’s safe to say — a revolution.

Few software has had such a profound impact on my life — that of millions of people — as WordPress.

WordPress was easy to install, easy to use, and easy to modify. Created as an open source project, it quickly attracted a dedicated community, which developed plugins, themes, wrote tons of documentation, and was always helpful to strangers trying to customize and solve problems on their own sites running WordPress.

It is estimated that b2/cafelog, the spiritual predecessor of WordPress, was used by about 2,000 sites in May 2003. Today, at 20 on an exponentially larger web, WordPress accounts for about 43% of all active sites in the world.

WordPress is also an inspiration as a business. Parallel to the open source project, co-founder Matt Mullenweg started a for-profit company, Automattic, and created a system in which the two parties feed each other, one strengthening the other, in a sustainable way.

Even today, anyone who wants to use WordPress can download the source code and install it on any server. Those who do not want to deal with servers and code, from weekend writers to small businesses, to large companies, have in the services of Automattic (and countless other partners) the relatively cheap managed option to enjoy the two decades of WordPress development.

There’s a lot to like about WordPress. Not everything was a breeze on this journey, however. In 2018, WordPress 5.0 ignited a new era in the project, that of the Gutenberg block editor. In place of the good and old text area for writing posts, we got a very visual system, with blocks of various content that can be embedded and remixed to create posts and pages — and, later on, entire sites.

I feel that people like me, who still use WordPress as a CMS, an editor for blogs, ended up being a little cornered. My Portuguese-written blog, which was born on and continues to use WordPress, has no plans to move to the blocks world. WordPress’ flexibility allows me to reverse some “progress” made, such as the block editor, and keep (some) things as they were until 2018.

More than that, WordPress, with its intuitive yet simple layout structure and powerful plugins, allows me to create a site that I never imagined I could build back there, when I uploaded my first blog with it; a site exactly as I wish.

Thanks to Matt, Mike Little (another co-founder), to all the volunteers who helped and help make WordPress and, directly or indirectly, help me make my little, charming site on the web.

Code is poetry.

May another 20 years come!

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