The first 15 years of WordPress

Working with WordPress since 2008. Full time with WordPress since 2011.

I first got in touch with it about ten years ago, when my former employer came to me one day and said: “Have you heard of WordPress? Please, install it on your machine because we need to create 48 themes in 1 month”. I was shocked because back then I didn’t even know what a theme is. The good thing was that actually we were supposed to deliver only eight themes and each one with six color variations, and the themes were straightforward at that time, so I met the deadline. This is how I started with WordPress, and I never stopped, it changed my life and it’s been my full-time job on one way or other in the past seven years.


Ground zero

Going back to WordPress’ history, it was officially released on May 27, 2003, by its founders, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little as a fork of b2/cafelog.

b2/cafelog was the precursor to WordPress and was estimated to have been installed on approximately 2,000 blogs as of May 2003. It was written in PHP for use with MySQL by Michel Valdrighi, who is now a contributing developer to WordPress. Although WordPress is the official successor, another project, b2evolution, is also in active development.



The official 1.0 version was released shortly, in January 2004, with features like straightforward installation, comment moderation, search engine friendly permalinks and categories. May 2004 saw the release of Version 1.2 (Mingus) which was introducing the plugins, with the well known Hello Dolly demo created by Mullenweg himself.



2005 was the year of two significant commercial moves: Automattic was created, and was launched, after Matt Mullenweg’s vision that the GPL license was capable of supporting both an active open source project and an entirely distinct commercial entity that could leverage its power.

WordPress 1.5 (Strayhorn) was bringing theming functionality and static pages. The default theme Kubrick was introducing the separation of design and functionality, opening many doors for developers and designers but also for monetization.

Version 2.0 (Duke) kept the ball rolling with the addition of persistent caching, user roles and a significant refresh of the backend UI. The anti-comment spam plugin Akismet was launched this year, too.



The first WordCamp ever took place in San Francisco, and Automattic made one of the company’s first major purchases, Gravatar.



Few 2.x releases are bringing several changes and improvements: widget support for templates, speed optimizations, new taxonomy system.



Version 2.5 Brecker is a significant release and brought a significant revamp to the dashboard, dashboard widgets, multi-file upload, extended search, improved editor, improved plugin system and more.

Theme Directory was launched.



Versions like 2.7, 2.8 or 2.9 added new functionalities like automatic upgrades and installing plugins, from within the administration interface, built-in theme installer, image editing, batch plugin updating.



Thelonious or version 3.0 came with a lot of new features and improvements: a new theme APIs, WordPress and WordPress MU merged, creating the new multi-site functionality, the new default theme “Twenty Ten” and a refreshed, lighter admin UI.

But maybe one of the essential features of this version, and maybe one of all times, was the inclusion of custom post types

The WordPress Foundation was officially set up as a charitable organization by Matt Mullenweg with the aim of securing WordPress’ long-term future as an independent open source software project.


2011 – 2012

For the 3.1, 3.2 and up to 3.6 versions, most noticeable news: the Admin Bar, Post Format, a friendlier experience for the tablet users, support for the Retina Display, new revision system, autosave, post locking.



WordPress 3.8 (Parker) was a big release, bringing improved admin interface, responsive design for mobile devices, new typography using Open Sans, admin color schemes, redesigned theme management interface, simplified main dashboard.



While the 3.9 version added only a few visible features like Improvements to editor for media, live widget and header previews, and a new theme browser, the 4.0 and 4.1 introduced some very cool things like improved media management, embeds, writing interface, easy language change, theme customizer, plugin discovery, Vine embeds and plugin recommendations.

But the major point of interest for this year was Matt Mullenweg’s big move, stepping up as CEO of Automattic, the company who by the end of the year raised $160 million in funding.



By the beginning of this year, WordPress was installed on 23% of all active websites in the worldwide.

The versions launched in 2015 were bringing overall improvements like new “Press This” features, improved characters support, emoji support, improved customizer, new embeds and updated plugin system.

But 2015 for WordPress has been a remarkable year for sure with two other headlines: REST API was about to be integrated into the core, and WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic, turning WordPress into a major competitor in an eCommerce market dominated by Shopify and Magento.



WordPress 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7 have a lot of great updates: inline linking, formatting shortcuts, live responsive previews, native fonts, editor improvements with inline link checker and content recovery, Video Header Support, PDF preview, custom CSS in live preview and more.



Was a good year for the editor and for editing in general, versions 4.8 and 4.9 brought a next-generation editor, WYSIWYG in text widget, new media widgets, improved theme customizer, improved menu functions, new gallery widget and now the theme editor gives warnings and rollbacks when saving files produce fatal errors, but maybe none of these are comparing to the buzz generated by Gutenberg.



What’s next? … TBD



This article was part of the May edition of the Bucharest WordPress Meetup, a special edition, celebrating 15 years of WordPress. You can see my presentation here.


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