This weekend marked the 20th birthday of WordPress, the
blogging tool CMS I’m writing this post in, and the thing I also work on/with mostly during my working hours.
Let’s go back in time a little bit.
I’m an old-timer in the blogosphere, I started blogging back in 2000 on my very first website which was called fuckhedz.com. Back then, I wore baggy pants and bands like Korn & Limp Bizkit were all the rage, hence the name. It was supposed to be “cool”.
Until that point, the web was mostly static. If you wanted to publish something, you’d edit the file offline and then upload it to your web host. There was no interactivity and no databases to store stuff. Unless you were a big company with a truckload of cash to burn, your web host only supported serving static HTML files.
If you were really lucky, you might have also had access to the FrontPage Server Extensions, in which case you could show a dynamic counter on your website. Or Perl, don’t get me started on Perl.
But let’s move forward. The release of PHP 4 shook up the entire hosting industry. This free & very capable scripting language is straightforward to use and understand, and very soon many web hosts started offering it. Static websites made way for more dynamic sites, backed by databases and whatnot.
Somewhere in August 2000, I decided that I also wanted to jump this shiny new train. I registered fuckhedz.com and installed PHP-Nuke (a very early CMS).
And I started blogging, even though I didn’t know the term “blogging”. I started writing short pieces about what was happening in my life. And at the same time, I tried almost all the early blogging CMS’s out there, and for I while I even contributed plugins to my favorite one back then: ???????? NucleusCMS by Wouter Demuynck.
All this build up just to say: I was there when Matt Mullenweg announced the WordPress project on May 27th of 2003. The blogosphere was small, and the news of someone releasing a new tool was something big. I also remember being not that impressed when he did, as it was lacking many features that other blogging tools already had (such as multisite or plugins). But it had one thing going for it: polish. Right from the start, it wanted to be the best place for your writings to live.
It didn’t take that long for me to jump ship. WordPress gained momentum rapidly, thanks to the introduction of plugins and themes in a later release. And basically every other blogging CMS (some of which were expensive) faded away.
WordPress evolved a lot in the following years, and I have to admit that until last year I wasn’t really paying close attention to it. I knew it was an excellent solution if you wanted to set up a blog, but if I needed to create a website for someone it was never the tool I choose because in my mind, WordPress was still just a blogging tool. And for blogging, I did move on to walled gardens such as Medium.
Before applying to Automattic last year, I forced myself to really get to know WordPress again. And boy … was I pleasantly surprised. Not only, is WordPress still the best blogging tool around, but it’s also the best site builder.
Gutenberg, the block editor, not only allows you to write posts and pages in the most intuitive way, but also allows you to change everything else about your site. And it’s just going to get better and better, with support for collaboration and multilanguage coming in the next phases. Giving someone the tools to change everything about their site, is really a game changer. And full-site editing makes WordPress more than “just” a blogging CMS. It makes it a site builder à la Wix or Squarespace, but for free and just as good (if not better).
I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for WordPress. It’s been quite a ride, and WordPress really democratized publishing for the past 20 years. Thanks to the power of open-source software, millions of people can get their thoughts published every day. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Happy birthday, WordPress!