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WordPress: The Little CMS that Could

wordpress_logo-resizeThe Internet is an amazing place. Where else can you get so many great products for free?

Take WordPress, for example. The seed for the world’s leading content management system first took root in January 2003 when a young developer, Matt Mullenweg, grew disenchanted with his blogging software, b2. The software hadn’t been updated in months and the main developer had disappeared, leaving Mullenweg little option but to take matters into his own hands.

He soon embarked on a joint effort with Mike Little to create a “fork” of b2. A fork is when a developer takes a copy of source code from one software package and independently develops it to create a new and different piece of software. Four months later WordPress was born, and the blogging/website development world has never been the same.

According to WordPress’ own website, “WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPL.” Considering the fact that version 3.5 of the software has been downloaded more than 18 million times, it’s safe to say the authors of WordPress succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

After its launch in 2003, progress on the fledgling software moved slowly at first, but momentum soon began to build. In 2004, the first plug-ins were introduced, giving website designers significantly more options and capabilities. The following year saw the introduction of a theme system and static pages, followed by persistent caching and a new backend user interface.

In August 2005, the free hosted version of WordPress – WordPress.com – was unveiled to the world. And in 2007, new features like autosave, spellcheck, update notifications and a new taxonomy system further increased the software’s capabilities.

During that same time period, Automattic, a commercial company dedicated to supporting the WordPress community, was launched. A few years later, WordPress supporters created the WordPress Foundation to support the non-commercial, non-profit mission of WordPress. The foundation focuses primarily on education and support for WordPress, and is the driving force behind WordCamp Central, the annual regional WordPress conference events. It also supports WordPress Meetups – local, regularly scheduled meetings of WordPress fans around the world.

WordPress may have started out as a humble blogging system, but it has evolved into a full-blown content management system with thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes. These days, WordPress is the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, and it provides the content management system for millions of websites that are visited by tens of millions of people every day.

But here’s the most remarkable thing about this highly popular CMS – it was created by and for the web community. Meaning that it is an open-source project with hundreds of people all over the world working on it at any given time. As an open-source system, anyone can use it at any time without paying a license fee.

Equally important, WordPress was, and continues to be, designed with the focus on the user rather than the technology. Its developers understand that many WordPress users are not technically oriented. Most users don’t understand the underlying technology, and don’t want to. What they want is to publish blogs and design websites without problems.

The people behind WordPress also believe that great software should work with as little configuration and setup as possible. So they designed the software to get users up and running and fully functional in about five minutes. And they built it so people don’t have to struggle to use the system’s standard functionality.

WordPress is a great story and an even better product. We use it at Bop Design for all our web design projects.

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