WordPress comes of age with its 18th birthday
Can you believe it? WordPress turns 18 on May 27, 2021. In the U.S. and many other countries, that makes WordPress officially an adult. If WordPress were a human being, it would become eligible to vote, graduate high school, and make decisions without a parent’s consent.
As in years past, we anticipate many people around the world will be celebrating this auspicious birthday. Here at Namecheap, we’d like to take a look at why millions of people not only choose WordPress for their websites but have a fondness for WordPress that goes beyond software.
WordPress is about the community: open source
WordPress is open-source software. Over the past 18 years, thousands of people have contributed to the actual code, as well as creating themes and plugins, providing training, organizing meetup groups, planning large WordCamps (low-cost WordPress conferences), assisting with support through the WordPress.org forums, providing translation and internationalization, and more.
As we’ve noted in the past, it’s this community that has helped make WordPress the powerhouse that it has become.
For one take on the WordPress community, we reached out to Andrea Middleton, a leader on the WordPress global community team.
According to Middleton, the reasons behind the popularity of WordPress “are probably as varied as the reasons to use WordPress itself.” As she tells us,
“I know one thing that makes WordPress so successful is the welcoming and empowering nature of the WordPress community.
“WordPressers are creative, optimistic, collaborative do-ers. Like many open source enthusiasts, we value our autonomy, but we also know that we can accomplish more when we work together. WordPress community events are open to anyone, offering inspiration, peer support, and camaraderie.”
Developer Brian Batt, Engineering Project Manager at Articulate, credits the WordPress ecosystem, including its community of experts, as a significant contributor to the platform’s success. “I’ve dealt with other environments like Joomla, Moodle, and Wix and the support just isn’t there,” Batt explained. It’s much harder to find experts that can translate your vision into a real product that can be sold and distributed confidently.”
Batt and his team created the popular plugin, elearningfreak, which helps instructional designers, universities, and businesses get their e-learning content into WordPress. As he said, “with over 28 million live sites powered by WordPress according to BuiltWith, WP is in an incredible position to positively influence inclusion across the world.”
Although he admits he’s had some ups and downs with the WordPress community, Batt notes that “for the most part, it’s been a positive experience.” He pointed to the recent WordPress 5.6 update, developed by a team of female and non-binary developers, as the perfect example of the platform’s unique influence around the world.
WordPress is social: meetups
Besides the fact that so many web publishers just love using the software, monthly meetups are the glue that holds the WordPress community together. Almost every major city in the world has a regularly scheduled meetup for WordPress users to connect and learn.
Since WordPress is open-source software that anyone can use, change and redistribute, there’s an overflowing fountain of things to study and learn. No other CMS can claim thousands of devotees gathering together during any given month to find support. Ever been invited to a Magento party? Probably not.
Meetup organizers are volunteers who might develop websites or plugins, run training courses, contribute to WordPress core, work for a company within the larger WordPress ecosystem, or have some other role within the community. What they all have in common is a passion for WordPress and the community, and want to bring people together to learn new skills and network with other WordPress users.
And meetups are so successful (and fun!) because people are willing to share their knowledge freely and openly. As Middleton notes:
“WordPress (and open source) does not work from a scarcity model. The code is free and open, just as our ecosystem and opportunities are as open as we can make them. Most work on/in the WordPress community is accompanied by the knowledge that a rising tide lifts all boats, and we rarely miss the opportunity to share what we’ve learned with each other. In WordPress, most people want to see others succeed as much as they, themselves, want to succeed.
“Any WordPresser will tell you that the software, and the community that supports it, is not perfect — but we’re working on making both better, every day.”
And a lot of the effort to make WordPress better comes from those willing to teach and share what they know, so more people can get involved, which in turn helps make the software itself even better.
What that means is that rather than just closed clubs of fellow enthusiasts talking about the intricacies of code and business models, WordPress meetups are perfect for everyone from beginners to advanced users.
At a typical meetup, you might encounter a newbie who shows up searching for an answer to a specific question about their site, and after they get their answer they come back the next month because people were so welcoming and helpful.
WordPress is educational: WordCamps
As with any community, connecting with other enthusiasts is educational and empowering. WordCamps are like the Comic-Cons of the WordPress world. These conferences are locally organized by volunteers and feature educational presentations. The WordPress Foundation helps to coordinate WordCamps and mandates low ticket prices so that the events are accessible to everyone.
The first WordCamp was held in San Francisco in 2006, and since then, hundreds of local communities around the world have organized their own. Major events like WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe draw presenters, developers, and WordPress fans from around the world
And it’s at WordCamp US every year that Matt Mullenweg delivers his annual State of the Word address, reflecting on the past year of WordPress and where the software is headed.
Namecheap has helped sponsor many WordCamps at the local level, not only to promote our EasyWP hosting plans but also to ensure these grassroots events have the support they need.
WordPress is playful: the Wapuu
From its early childhood and youth until now, WordPress has never been boring. Because of its open-source nature and the legions of volunteers that have built the ecosystem, there have been lots of opportunities to make the work fun, and that has more people into the WordPress universe.
For example, a particular bit of silliness that has now become an ingrained aspect of the community is the Wapuu.
According to the official Wapuu Field Guide and Trading Post, the concept of the Wapuu was born back in 2009 when WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg asked for ideas on how to promote WordPress in Japan, which led to the creation of a Japanese WordPress mascot.
By February 2011, the Wapuu was born. Initially, it was just a chubby little creature holding the WordPress logo, but because it’s licensed under the GPL, anyone can create their own version.
And now there are untold versions of the Wapuu that fans create to celebrate local meetup groups, companies, WordCamps, and various fan groups. And these variations show up as stickers and pins, on t-shirts and cakes, and even as tattoos.
The Wapuu allows those who are artistically inclined, but perhaps not a web designer, to contribute something fun and lasting to the community.
WordPress is flexible
In 2020, most events were held virtually, including WordCamp Asheville, for which Namecheap was a sponsor. John Dorner, lead organizer of 2020 Asheville WordCamp and founder of the Asheville Area WordPress Meetup Group, spoke about the casual nature in which WordCamps tend to get started:
“I attended the Atlanta WordCamp in 2013 and there were several people from the Asheville meetup group there,” Dorner described. “While eating lunch at the Atlanta WordCamp we talked about hosting our own. I remember us saying ‘we could do this.’ A year later we hosted our first WordCamp Asheville.”
Even with an experienced team of organizers, Dorner faced new hurdles when planning the virtual conference last year:
“Planning an online WordCamp was definitely different from the previous six AVL WordCamps we’d planned. Most of the people who had been on the planning team for the previous camps weren’t interested or able to work on the online WordCamp… We had to recruit a bunch of new people to make up the planning team.”
No matter the format of the event, there are some key lessons that hold true, according to Dorner: “You’ve got to have a good team of dedicated people to organize a WordCamp either physical or online.”
He also advises new WC organizers, that you should “Build your local community through regular meetups. Hold them regularly — the same date, time, location. Get to know your community — eat and drink together before and after the meetups if possible.”
WordPress is precocious: Gutenberg
Two things that are always true about WordPress:
- As the demands of the Internet and online businesses change, so does WordPress.
- Everyone who uses WordPress has an opinion about each change.
One of the biggest changes to WordPress in its 18-year history was the new block editor named Gutenberg. First launched in June 2017, Gutenberg was a major overhaul of the classic WordPress editor. It’s named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press in the 15th century. Like its namesake, the goal of Gutenberg in WordPress was to revolutionize how people created content, and it allowed WordPress to stretch its wings as a modern content management system.
But the introduction of Gutenberg was a bumpy ride. Some people disliked Gutenberg at first because of the learning curve required to use the substantially new interface. Other users faced challenges because features removed from the classic editor were not yet implemented in the beta version of Gutenberg. And, of course, there were bugs in the initial version that caused problems for quite a few websites.
But hindsight is 20/20, and it’s now clear that Gutenberg evoked such strong emotions because it represented a paradigm shift. It was a full-fledged revolution!
By the end of the Gutenberg roll-out — made official with the December 2018 update to WordPress 5.0, that added Gutenberg to WordPress Core —many early critics were charmed by the new features of block-style editing and ultimately jumped on the bandwagon. And in the years since, it has grown more stable and offers ever-increasing new features that expand design and functionality for all WordPress users.
For so many reasons… Namecheap wishes WordPress a happy 18th birthday!
And so here we are. WordPress has reached an amazing milestone. And Namecheap has never been more fully committed to WordPress. EasyWP offers the fastest and most affordable and reliable managed WordPress hosting. Our shared hosting options also allow users to install WordPress on their websites via cPanel. We regularly present blog articles and Guru Guides on how to use WordPress, and we attend and sponsor a number of WordCamps around the world each year.
So it’s with great respect and appreciation that we wish WordPress a very happy birthday… and many more to come!