History of WordPress – a 20-Year Journey [INFOGRAPHICS]

On May 27, 2023, WordPress celebrates its 20th anniversary. TemplateMonster invites the community to dive into WordPress history and see how it grew and developed.

Celebrate WordPress’s 20th Anniversary with TemplateMonster

How the History of WordPress Started

The story of WordPress started in 2003 when the young American blogger Matt Mullenweg posted in his blog the article “The Blogging Software Dilemma”, where he submitted the idea to use b2/cafelog code to fork the software. At that moment the program code of that platform hadn’t been updated for a long time. It was the main reason for the dilemma.  Fortunately, b2/cafelog used open-source licensing and Matt decided to make another branch of the software that was based on the old version (forking business).

History of WordPress Featured Image

2003 – First Version Was Released

British blogger and developer Mike Little read this article, and he left a comment addressed to Matt, that he is going to help. In May 2003, the first version 0.7 was born. It had XHTML 1.1-compliant templates, a links manager, the ability to do manual excerpts, and some new designs.

2004 – Reales of “Mingus”

The next significant update was in May 2004. Version 1.2 was named “Mingus” after Charles Mingus American jazz musician and composer. Because Matt Mullenweg studied jazz and is a passionate fan, almost every version’s name was devoted to a jazz legend. This product became very popular because it had plenty of features (especially plugins) that other competitors missed. 

2005 – Revolutionary Dashboard

In February 2005, version 1.5 was introduced as “Strayhorn”. It had an improved plugin storage and an extended theme system. Also, it presented a revolutionary dashboard. But the appearance of WP was far from the one we know today.

In December 2005 WP community could see the next generation 2.0, known as “Duke”, in honor of jazzman Duke Ellington. This update received a completely redesigned backend user interface. The release included:

  • Faster Administration;
  • WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Editing;
  • Included Spam and Backup Plugins;
  • Resizable Editing;
  • Inline Uploading;
  • Faster Posting;
  • Post Preview;
  • Streamlined Importing;
  • User Roles;
  • Header Customization.

Also, the developers fixed hundreds of bugs and issues. The company, even, moved WordPress.org to another server that made the work process faster.

In 2005, Matt Mullenweg founded  Automattic, Inc. (there is a subtle play on words because it includes the name of the co-founder – AutoMATTic).  To protect all legal rights in the business area and to care about the development of the WordPress engine.

2006 – Registration of Trade Mark and Logo

March 1, 2006 – Automattic, Inc. registered WordPress as the official trademark with the corporative logo. In October 2006 the company started to notify all owners who used “wordpress” in their domain or services that they must change the names of their products.

2007 – The Function of Autosaving Appeared

On January 22, 2007, the next update 2.1 “Ella” was released. The function of autosaving appeared in this version for the first time. You did not lose the result of your editing anymore. Simultaneously, you could switch between text and visual editing. Reviewed WP_Eroor allowed you to notice and fix errors in your dashboard.

2008 – Groundbreaking Makeup of Control Panel

In 2008 Automattic presented some makeup on the control panel and it started to look like the modern view we know. Release 2.7 “Coltraine” brought an updated admin menu and users could show or hide elements depending on their needs.

The second important thing was a simple process of updating, that had been manual before. The system just notified you about the next releases that were ready for installation.

2009 – Winner of Open Source CMS Awards

WordPress was granted the Overall Best Open Source CMS Award in the 2009 Open Source CMS Awards according to Packt Publishing. It left behind its main competitors, such as “Joomla”. Nota bene for a CMS so young.

At the end of 2009, WP rolled out the next version 2.9 “Carmen”. It extended users’ abilities to work with media content. Now it was possible to edit an image inside of the control panel. Video integration also became much easier. You just added a URL from the video service, and CMS made all the other work.

Another important part of the package was the global undo/”trash” feature. Now, accidentally deleted posts or comments could be recovered. Also, you could update up to 10 plugins in one action, and check compatibles.

2010 – Function of Multisite

In 2010 many contributors were developing version 3.0 which became a great turning point in WordPress history. All those changes and multiple improvements would not have been possible without a large community. 

Version 3.0 “Thelonious” included some new features:

  • Custom post types;
  • Custom taxonomies;
  • New default theme called Twenty Ten;
  • Merge of MU and WordPress.

The last one made it possible to run one site or thousand others from one installation. Now we know this feature as WP Multisite. In this case, web resources use one database, but have different designs and directions for media downloading. 

As well, WP mobile application gave a chance to work through your smartphone or tablet. Of course, managing a site is better via a browser, but what to do, if you have to edit something on the site immediately, and you are out of your desktop/laptop? The app is the right decision. It brought out comfort to another level. 

WordPress had grown out of its blogging platform origins and became an effective CMS with world popularity. Already, it was a strong tool in site building and managing content.

This year another significant event happened. The WordPress Foundation received all rights for the WordPress trademark and logo from Automattic, Inc. As a non-profit organization, WordPress Foundation has a mission to provide free access, in continuance, to open-source projects of the community. The main goal was to develop and save WP products for the next generations of users. 

2011 – Post Formats and Admin Bar

In version 3.1 “Reinhardt”, the workspace was completely redesigned. A top panel allowed access to frequently used functions of the Dashboard. It creates a simple interface for a beginner who might had been disoriented by the big amount of non-used menu items.

Among the upgraded features, there were a lot of bonuses for developers, such as new Post Formats support. That made the creation of different styles for different types of posts in themes easier. 

Some additional CMS innovations:

  • page archiving for custom content types;
  • new Network Admin for managing MU;
  • revised import and export system;
  • advanced taxonomy and custom fields queries.

2012 – Updated Media Manager and Theme Customizer and Previewer

Theme customizer was implemented, by the next generation 3.4 “Green”. It let to modify the appearance and view themes such as colors, backgrounds, and header images. As well, the Theme Preview feature allowed you to evaluate a new theme or make changes to your current theme without publishing the changes for visitors.

Further version 3.5 “Elvin” presented an absolutely overhalled Media Manager. Images loaded and could be edited, or added to the gallery immediately in one window. In the case of creating a gallery, the user could adjust the order of the images by simply dragging and dropping them.

2013 – Modern aesthetic of Dashboard

In December 2013, version 3.8 called “Parker” brought a brand-new design that was similar to its current appearance. The dashboard had a modern aesthetic and concise view. Eight admin color schemes were approachable for users with preview and editing.

Clean typography was expressed by the Open Sans font. The reading of a text became as convenient both from the phone and from the desktop. Vector-based icons allowed downloading content faster with high definition. In the following years, dedicated community developers worked tirelessly on major and minor improvements to the user experience and security.

2014 – Google’s Noto font family

December 2014 – edition 4.1 “Dinah”.This update covered a simplified editing mode, plugin recommendations, improved support for language packs, a new Twenty Fifteen theme, and other improvements and bug fixes.

Dozens of community developers have worked on the new default Twenty-Fifteen theme. It was created according to the “mobile first” principle. In a nutshell, the theme was originally developed for mobile devices and tablets, and then finalized for laptops and desktop computers. Twenty Fifteen uses Google Web Fonts Noto Sans and Noto Serif.

2015 – Incorporation of WooCommerce plugin

The most important event of the 2015 year was the incorporation of WooCommerce by Automattic, Inc. WooCommerce is a very popular and famous plugin for WordPress for creating e-commerce stores. This is a convenient and free of cost, but at the same time flexible and functional platform. All of the above makes it a good tool for small and medium-sized businesses whose owners are not ready to spend much money on developing stores in the beginning.

On December 8, 2015, an update 4.4, “Clifford”, named after the American musician Clifford Brown was released.

New features in WordPress 4.4:

  • a “Twenty Sixteen” theme;
  • ability to make images responsive (not just CSS);
  • embedding posts from third-party sites (oEmbed);
  • implemented the first stage of the REST API;
  • some enhancements for developers.

2016 – Streamlined Updates

Final update of the 2016 year – v.4.7 “Vaughan” brought revised menu creation, custom CSS styles with live preview, and the Twenty Seventeen theme – the first default theme designed for business websites. It also had the option to insert videos in headers.

Version 4.7 had a ton of other user-friendly improvements:

  • PDF preview;
  • admin panel in different languages;
  • searching of media files;
  • improved interface for custom background properties.

2017 – On the Way to Perfection

WordPress released “Tipton” on November 16, 2017, as a major update from the main WP team that improves the design workflow and protects users from coding errors.

Features of version 4.9:

  • saving, previewing, and scheduling theme changes in the configurator;
  • improved theme viewing in the configurator;
  • gallery of widgets;
  • adding to the text widget;
  • support for shortcodes in the text widget;
  • the video widget now supports video from other providers;
  • more control between theme switches;
  • “Save” hint in your post;
  • improved coding experience.

2018 – Block-Based Editor

In December 2018, the release of WP 5.0 “Bebo” made a true revolution in the CMS industry. Instead of the famous classic editor new block-based editor “Gutenberg” was implemented. It changed the editing experience and put it on a streaming way. Since that moment, every part of the content has been situated in its own block. It let to work with different types of content for one page and you didn’t need separate plugins for each one.

Also, that Big Change affected:

  • page templates;
  • full site customizer.

2019 – Site Health Features and PHP Error Protection

In February 2019, the next upgrade 5.1 “Betty” was presented. As usual, it was named after jazzman Betty Carter and focused on the site’s health features. Administrators could see the next version of PHP (the programming language of WordPress) and the compatibility of new plugins with the current version.

Edition 5.1 renewed:

  • Editor Performance;
  • Multisite Metadata;
  • Cron API;
  • JS Build Processes.

In May 2019, update 5.2 “Jaco” started. It fixed some bugs in the site health from the previous version. Besides, “Jaco” gave an opportunity for administrators to fix or manage fatal errors through recovery mode.

2020 –  Lazy Loading Images were Introduced

On March 31, 2020, the company opened for public access to version 5.4 “Adderley”. Mostly, the changes touched the Block Editor. “Adderley” increased amount of blocks and their adjustment.

Other customizations included:

  • better speed of working;
  • simplified control panel interface;
  • additional privacy settings;
  • settings styles of blocks;
  • Tik-Tok support;
  • two new APIs, as block variations and gradients.

In August 2020, edition 5.5 “Eckstine” saw the light. A new feature as Lazy Loading Images appeared in this update.

Lazy loading is a method of optimizing the loading of page content, which delays the loading of non-critical resources (in this case, images). It means that the browser is instructed to accept the visible content when the page loads and to delay the rendering of images placed outside the field of view until they are actually needed. Lazy loading starts when the user interacts with scrolling or navigating the page.

When it comes to web performance, optimizing image size and loading speed is one of the key aspects for site administrators. Since lazy loading has become the standard, that now is included in the CMS core. We no longer need to write custom code or use third-party JavaScript.

Before version 5.5, lazy loading was only possible in WordPress with optimization plugins such as Autoptimize, BJ Lazy Load, and others. This feature is now part of WordPress core and does not require additional plugins.

2021 – From HTTP to HTTPS

March 9, 2021 – version 5.7 “Esperanza” was presented. There was the transition from HTTP to HTTPS in one click, the updated functionality of the block editor, and the ability to make more changes without writing code.

Update 5.7 simplified the process of migrating a site from HTTP to HTTPS. Now it could be done in one click. The URLs in the site database update automatically. In addition, the developers added the option to check HTTPS status to the “Site Health” section.

Also, there were new possibilities for inserting blocks that can be dragged. Users can now drag blocks and block templates directly into the publication’s content area, making it easier to create a page using Gutenberg.

These were not all the changes that have been made to improve user interaction. The modifications that gave more control over existing blocks:

  • the button block supports vertical alignment, and you could set the width of the button to a preset percentage;
  • full height alignment. Blocks such as the Cover block can now be extended to fill the entire viewing window;
  • font size in other places. Now you could change the font size in the List and Code blocks;
  • Social Media Icons Block. Now you could customize the size of icons in the social media icon block.

In July 2021, CMS was upgraded to version 5.8 “Tatum”. One of the key innovations in edition 5.8 was the block editing mode in the widget section. Now administrators and developers have more freedom in the layout of sites and filling them with content.

 Some innovations in package 5.8 touched only developers. For example:

  • a global style editor appeared (theme.json file);
  • support for Internet Explorer 11 was excluded; 
  • support for the WebP image format was added;
  • there were additional tools for customizing your own blocks.

2022 – Full Site Editing

January 2022 – version 5.9 “Josephine” update. The main innovation in this release was the improved functionality of the Gutenberg block editor. Now it is possible to edit the whole site. The developers of WP see Gutenberg as the future of content marketing, and it is already here. It can be used to customize the style of each part of the site, as well as individual templates.

2023 – 43% of Websites Are Based on WordPress

Now we know WordPress as the most used CMS (Content Management System) in the world which makes web publishing very easy and comfortable. By 2023 43% of all websites had been built on the WordPress platform. 

This success is a result of efforts by a lot of developers and communities. Thanks to open-source technologies every individual developer can fix bugs or improve code and offer to include this solution in the core of WP. Even if an enhancement did not become a part of the main codebase, it could be a single plugin in the repository.

Common users can discover their own content for the whole world without knowledge of HTML, CSS, and MySQL bases. Everything they need is desire and passion to do it. It makes information approachable with a high speed of spreading.

WordPress & TemplateMonster history timeline

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