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Why WordPress Will Soon Power 50% of All Websites

The WordPress global success story just goes on and on.

As it stands today, WordPress powers 39.1% of all websites. According to the latest figures by W3Techs, it’s growing by 2.47% per year on average — with no signs of slowing down. Continuing at this rate, there’s every chance it will surpass 50% market share by the end of 2025. 

Let that sink in. 

Half of all websites will be built on the original blogging platform — built upon the source code of abandoned blog project b2/cafelog by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little back in 2003, back when Mullenweg was a 19-year-old student at the University of Houston. 

It’s safe to say WordPress’ market share has made some serious gains recently. But how did it become so dominant, and what drove a rise of 3.7% of websites turning to WordPress — over any other platform — over the last year alone? 

That’s what we’ll investigate in this post: how WordPress is not only going strong against the competition but thriving despite a year of economic uncertainty. 

W3Techs CMS performance usage 

To understand WordPress’s dominant position, an overview of the Content Management System industry is necessary. As you can see in the table below, the past year has been a rocky time. Some of the key players have lost prominence, and others have skyrocketed. 

table comparing WordPress to other CMSes
Source: W3Techs

To save you scrutinizing the figures, here are the main takeaways:

  • WordPress is used by 39.1% of all the websites — a content management system market share of 63.8%.
  • Shopify has overtaken Joomla! to the number two spot this year.
  • Joomla! and Drupal are on the decline, with Drupal dropping down a place in favor of website builder Wix.
  • While WordPress remains on top, the data paints a clear picture: besides Shopify, the ecosystem outside of WordPress isn’t getting stronger. 

Now we’ve set the scene, let’s take a deeper dive to understand what’s caused each of the points above.

Open-source on the decline

WordPress aside, major open-source platforms aren’t faring well. Drupal and Joomla, the heavyweights in technical prowess and developer control, have been hit the hardest.

table of popular CMSes
W3Techs – World Wide Web Technology Surveys

Compared to WordPress and Shopify, they’re flatlining, but why is that?  

It’s no secret that, between the top open-source platforms, WordPress is the most user-friendly. Right now, that’s what the vast number of new businesses are looking for. They want a way to pivot their business online with minimal fuss and delay. 

A layman’s route into website building just isn’t possible with any other open-source platform besides WordPress. Case in point: Drupal, a platform associated with complex and government sites, with little to no attention for UX, can be off-putting for amateurs. 

To successfully build a website, you need to know the basics of coding. Similarly, Joomla! users require a higher level of technical skills to get started. In terms of ease of use, Joomla!’s editor doesn’t come close to WordPress’s Gutenberg block editor. 

The criteria for building small business websites at pace excludes higher-end platforms. Given the learning curve implied, the possibility to hit the ground running just isn’t possible. Comparatively, WordPress users just fire it up and start publishing.

Ecommerce: Shopify #2?

As a sign of the times, e-commerce is taking up a growing portion of new websites. This year, Shopify shot to second place while WooCommerce remained the most popular choice for building e-commerce sites. Note: That’s not reflected in the top performers league table above since Woo is not a stand-alone platform. It’s an e-commerce plugin for anyone with a (WordPress) website. 

The graph below (from this article by Yoast founder Joost de Valk) offers a much clearer picture of WooCommerce size and growth compared to Shopify. 

graph showing growth of woocommerce vs shopify

In recent years, Woo emerged as the most popular solution for creating an e-commerce store. It’s the platform of choice of 7.2% of all websites and maintains a safe distance ahead of its closest competitor. 

Woo draws users from existing WordPress sites wanting an e-commerce presence. It also appeals to first-time site builders because unlike Shopify, there are no limits on the free version. You can add unlimited products and connect a payment gateway to create a fully functional store in a snap. 

WordPress continues to dominate

In the number one spot, WordPress has not only maintained but extended it’s lead in the market. With so many sites using it already, where are the new users coming from, and why have they pipped for WordPress?

To overcome losses resulting from the pandemic, and continue serving their customer base, small businesses needed to move their business online. This means finding a solution to create a user-friendly website within a couple of hours without eating into their profits. 

WordPress has been the chosen platform for many small business owners to do just that. The data below tallies new sites built using each platform in October 2020. 

Comparison of WordPress, WooCommerce and Shopify on w3techs.com

It’s fair to say e-commerce is a driving force behind WordPress growth. While people are overwhelmingly turning to WordPress, and over a third chose WooCommerce to build their site.

With that snapshot of the movers and shakers in the industry, let’s look at what’s driving WordPress’s unprecedented growth.

To a CMS, and beyond 

Now back to the matter of WordPress edging towards 50% of all sites. How did we get here? To understand how WordPress has eaten the Internet, here’s an overview of how it’s transformed from such humble beginnings as a simple tool for making blogs. 

Over the year, themes, plugins, and many improvements have added to the user experience. As more non-techies came onboard, WordPress soon evolved to become the world’s most used content management. Fast forward to today, and we’re looking at a different beast entirely, transforming into what Mullenweg described as an operating system for the web

During the last few years, we’ve witnessed a fuller realization of this idea, as Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) provides websites via WordPress, e-commerce via WooCommerce, and social networks (they bought Tumblr). 

WordPress market share is *still* growing. What’s fueling it?

Mullenweg and the Automattic team’s decisions have driven momentum for investment, collaboration, and, of course, more users. They’ve even piqued Google’s attention. Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting developments:

Google

In a bid to level the playing field and keep their index from becoming smaller, Google came up with the AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, to make the web fast without using an app. And as small businesses struggle to compete, they’re turning to social networks to advertise and listing sites like Amazon to make sales. 

At a Keynote in 2019, Jono Alderson gave his opinion on how this affects WordPress users (with more emphasis on non-users).

“Google realized that they can only fix the web if they work on the underlying technologies that power those websites, which is why they are now deeply invested in the WordPress community.” 

According to Jono, the Yoast SEO plugin is “the glue that connects your AMPs, your Gutenberg, and your Schema.org, and so on.” 

And that you don’t need WordPress to do this. As Jono put it, 

“without the AMP plugin, and you could roll your own Schema.org solution instead of using Yoast SEO, but you will lack the flywheel effect of tying it all together.”

So, unless you’re okay with spending thousands of dollars integrating your platform with Google, a WordPress-based technology stack is the way to go. For businesses looking to feature higher in Google search results, without a serious investment of time and money, this is a no-brainer. 

woman at a graph showing WordPress at the top

WordPress Ecosystem

The ecosystem around WordPress helps it stay relevant and fuels growth. With WordPress.com, the WordPress software is utilized in a Software-as-a-Service model by Automattic. Therefore, as Automattic grows, which it does, WordPress and its ecosystem grow as well. 

If WordPress is to become an operating system of the web, the ecosystem is the software you can layer on top of it to achieve anything you want. Right now, it works seamlessly with many tools. Thanks to WordPress and Woo’s APIs (a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other), a new website or a tech startup can quickly connect to CRMs via Zapier, back offices like Salesforce, and plugins that integrate with Mailchimp. There’s little chance of enthusiasm running low. WordPress has a robust and well-organized community to count on. 

Together, the breadth of the community, the financial prowess of Automattic, and a well-funded ecosystem are a solid basis to realize Mullenweg’s operating system for the web. 

Gutenberg

WordPress’s rapid acceleration isn’t a product of a pandemic alone. In recent years, the core devs have switched focus to the user experience, culminating in the revolutionary editor, Gutenberg

Block-editing functionality brings the WordPress user experience closer to the website builders favored by amateurs. Website builders are intended for people to build websites independently without any web developers or agencies getting involved.

Besides the upgraded block editor, modern templates, and its general popularity, there are a few additional reasons why small businesses are turning to WordPress. WordPress has a large community backing, where new inexperienced users have access to endless guides and tutorials to navigate their journey through site creation. Best of all? It’s free to use, and thanks to Managed WordPress hosting, it’s never been easier to set up and run a WordPress website with zero experience. 

A managed host like EasyWP takes care of all the back end stuff, installation, speed, and security, so you’re free to focus on the website. It’s an ideal solution for someone without the time, will, or expertise to do it themselves.

The roadmap to 50% of the web and beyond

We’ve discussed how WordPress got this far, and it’s fair to say the future’s looking bright. Given socio and economic factors, we can make some predictions about how it will be adopted in the years to come  

The shift to e-commerce

The pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce by roughly five years, and according to United Nations Trade and Development Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, the shift to a digital world is here to stay. As he put it, “the changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover.” 

woman adding balls to a shopping bag

Right now, ‘online first’ is the sentiment for many new and established businesses. Yet, as of 2019, less than two-thirds of small businesses have a website (Clutch, 2019). The same study found that: 

  • small businesses cite cost (26%) and irrelevance to industry (27%) as key reasons behind their decision not to have a website. 
  • 35% of small businesses feel their operation is too small to warrant a website. 

Fast forward to 2020, and the notion that a business is too small or not suitable for an online present ceases to exist. Today, whether you’re a freelance nail technician or an organic health food store, without an online presence you give the impression that you’re no longer in business. 

As the pandemic pushes consumers and businesses online, the crisis also presents an opportunity. Companies that invest in their online presence will thrive — and where better than a free, well-known platform like WordPress to ease the transition. It’s an economical and sustainable choice for businesses of any size. A rush of businesses joining WordPress can only mean good things for the WordPress ecosystem.

Push back from data capitalism 

Then there’s the post-Covid world to think of. With the rise of social networks and closed platforms,  and the immense desire to control one’s data, Automattic’s mission statement has never sounded so important. 

We’re already seeing WordPress as a backbone for self-hosted applications running on small, tiny networking computers like the Raspberry Pi. This could open the door for creating fitness trackers, family social networks, or anything else holding your data. Likewise, there’s the possibility to make cool DIY apps just for fun. The possibilities are endless, with the hardware you may already have and software that’s for free. 

Next stop: 50% of the Internet

Without needing a crystal ball, we can be certain the WordPress team is determined to expand the platform well beyond a CMS. As WordPress continues to evolve and Gutenberg delivers a modern website editing experience, we couldn’t be more excited for the future. 

We firmly believe that WordPress market share will cross the magic 50% at some point this decade. Mass appeal for all levels of experience plays a part in that. 

Just like WordPress, EasyWP exists to make Managed WordPress accessible to everyone, everywhere. If this article has piqued your interest in WordPress, and you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get started, look no further than EasyWP. 

With Managed WordPress hosting from EasyWP you can have a WordPress site up and running in minutes, with all technical heavy lifting taken over so you can start publishing right away. We’ve taken a value-driven approach to our pricing, with plans starting at $3.88. And our customers receive all the benefits of the fastest WordPress hosting available without next-level costs.  

Are you convinced WordPress can cross the 50% market share cap? Let us know in the comments below.

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Isobel Weston

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