WordPress - From Blogging Platform To A Full Fledge Content Management System
Around 20% of all self-hosted websites use WordPress, the most popular Content Management System in the world. From small, personal blogs to highly complex websites, WordPress simplifies the lives of millions of people worldwide!
However, when Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little started this project, they weren't aware of the impact it would have! Even if you're not a WordPress expert you can launch a website with WordPress - it's easy and intuitive to use.
But that wasn't always the case.
Here is the story of how WordPress started as a miniscule blogging platform and became a full content management system for creating modern websites.
Early Life of Matt Mullenweg
Matt Mullenweg was born on January 11th, 1984 in Houston, Texas. You might know him as the founder of the most popular CMS now, but he wasn't always a tech geek. He was the opposite of it - he went to High School for performing visual arts!
While being busy expressing his creative nature, he also learned how to play the saxophone, and his love for jazz emerged! After that, he went to the University of Houston to study political science. During his high school years, he loved prose writing, culinary, music, and blogging - an artistic soul to the bone!
Even though he was never a programmer, his father was a computer scientist and had some influence on him on how to use the Internet.
Blogging World Before WordPress
During the 2000s the Internet was booming - new people were connecting to it every day. For many, the most interesting part of the Internet was creating a blog and writing about their favorite things - food, places to visit, life experience and the likes! So naturally, different blogging platforms such as GeoCities, Blogger, and B2-Cafelog started to appear, and they dominated the Internet for quite some time.
But one of them stood out the most - B2-Cafelog!
B2 was a simple tool for creating blogs, but what made it superior to the others was that it generated pages dynamically from the database. The site was developed by a French programmer named Michel Valdrighi in 2001, but by the end of 2002, it wasn't active anymore. Needless to say, the B2 community was left without developer support and they wondered what happened to the developer.
Among the concerned users was Matt Mullenweg, who used the platform to share pictures while staying in Washington DC. As the creator of the B2-Cafelog was nowhere to be found, he decided to try and build a new blogging platform. His idea was to take all the features of the existing platform and add some new functionalities.
The platform was under GPL license and that meant only one thing - everyone could take the code and use it. He wrote a post about his intentions and the very next day, guess who wrote him an email - Mike Little, the future co-founder, who wanted to contribute to his new project! Mike was just another blogger on B2-Cafelog and was an amazing programmer who wanted to contribute to his new project, free of charge. The resulting work was creating a fork website from the B2-Cafelog, that will accommodate their blogging needs.
The one thing that was missing was the name for the platform. A friend of Matt's, Christine Tremoulet, who he met while blogging, came up with the name WordPress. It was a combination of what Matt initially did - a revolution in the online world of published words, hence the name WordPress.
Matt and Mike officially launched WordPress on 27 May 2003. Even they weren't aware of how big WordPress would turn out to be!
WordPress wasn't just a copy of the B2 website - it had additional features that the community gladly accepted. The first customers were the people who previously used the B2 website, and they gladly accepted the new platform. Also, they liked the constant user support the platform offered, as well as its extra features.
Still, the biggest growth of WordPress users happened when the rival company Movable Type decided to change its pricing, a move that drove away many of its users. Movable Type charged customers for every newly released version, and of course, the users didn't like that one bit. Their second-best choice was WordPress, which was completely free to use!
As the platform started to grow, Matt started getting attention from the industry leaders. In 2004, he was hired by CNET to help them with their blog. CNET wasn't the first company that wanted Matt on their team - Google, Yahoo, and other big names companies all had their chance, but Matt politely declined them all. He decided to take the job at CNET because it allowed him to keep his work habits, personality, and most importantly, it gave him the freedom to continue improving WordPress.
He worked there one year, just enough time to collect experience and start his entrepreneurship career for real this time. After leaving CNET, he created Automattic in October 2005, WordPress parent company. In the same month, he created the spam filter Akismet which is still used today. These business moves gave Matt the confidence to start thinking about other investments. Plus, luck was on his side as he was able to raise $1.1 million in Series A funding!
In 2006, the company grew exponentially, so Matt and Mike decided to hire a skillful leader to run the show. They made Toni Schneider, the CEO of Oddpost and Yahoo an offer he couldn't refuse and he was hired!
The most fascinating organizational fact about WordPress at this time was that even with their countless users, the company had only 5 employees. However, Matt decided to focus all his resources into making a brand of WordPress, so in 2006, the board of directors at Automattic filed a trademark registration for the WordPress logo and the platform.
Two years later, in January 2008, they went through another Series B funding round, where they raised $29.5 million, an important investment for future acquisition plans!
Additional Development Of The Project And Making It Better
In 2010, there were additional changes to the platform itself. The WordPress logo was transferred to the WordPress Foundation, and with this change, Matt made sure that the platform would remain free software for generations to come. He wanted the platform to be free of charge as he believed that everyone should be able to make their blog or a website without paying.
Also, as the foundation had ownership of everything, it allowed everyone to download and use it. With this strategy, WordPress became a dominant force amongst the Content Management Systems and gained an ever-expanding community of supporters.
The changes in the 3.0 version put WordPress on the pedestal as one of the most comprehensive CMS tools. This upgrade included themes, custom buttons, and fields amongst other things. With these changes, the platform initial function was changed - from a simple blogging platform became a complex platform used for developing websites.
By the next year, almost 12% of the websites were made with WordPress, and by 2014 that percentage was 22%!
Creating New Opportunities
Today, WordPress is much more than just a CMS platform - it connects users, professionals, founders, and investors of the IT community. It's free, with a user-friendly interface and anyone can learn how to use it. It gives everyone a chance to make a brand of themselves, earn money online, or learn new skills, exactly what Matt initially wanted!
He certainly didn't expect that 409 million people would use WordPress - proof that if you offer the world something valuable, it won't go unnoticed!