WordPress was released on May 27, 2003. The history of the software is a tale of humble beginnings evolving into globe-straddling recognition and use. From that single release, ten years ago today, WordPress is now powering 17% of the web and is by far the most popular Content Management System available.
Recently there was another milestone: the twentieth anniversary of the World Wide Web – that is, the “Web”, or what we commonly refer to as the Internet. Two of the reasons that WordPress has spread so successfully are inherited from the creation of the web itself: ease and freedom of use.
The WWW, or W3, was created by a group of physicists at CERN, the same institution now working with the large particle collider that’s been in the news. As they explain,
On 30 April 1993 CERN published a statement that made World Wide Web (“W3”, or simply “the web”) technology available on a royalty-free basis. By making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code, the web was allowed to flourish.
British physicist Tim Berners-Lee invented the web at CERN in 1989. The project, which Berners-Lee named “World Wide Web”, was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for information sharing between physicists in universities and institutes around the world.
Because it was freely in the public domain, and simple enough to use, it spread rapidly until today “WWW” is synonymous with “The Internet”. Just think of the myriad technological breakthroughs that were made possible because this technology was freely available to use. Eric Meyer, the CSS genius, recently blogged about the importance of the web being free and open in its creation:
That’s not at all minor point. I don’t believe it overstates the case to say that if CERN hadn’t made the web free and open to all, it wouldn’t have taken over the net. Like previous attempts at hypertext and similar information systems, it would have languished in a niche and eventually withered away. There were other things that had to happen for the web to really take off, but none of them would have mattered without this one simple, foundational decision.
I would go even further and argue that this act infused the web, defining the culture that was built on top of it. Because the medium was free and open, as was often the case in academic and hacker circles before it, the aesthetic of sharing freely became central to the web community. The dynamic of using ideas and resources freely shared by others, and then freely sharing your own resources and ideas in return, was strongly encouraged by the open nature of the web. It was an implicit encouragement, but no less strong for that. As always, the environment shapes those who live within it.
The same can be said about WordPress. From the decision to be an open source project, all else flowed – the community-minded ethos of sharing and helping others, the usability of the software itself, and its near-total eclipse, in just ten years, of all other systems for building and managing content online.
To celebrate what an awesome decade its been, there are WordPress Anniversary parties all over the globe today. Join one and raise a glass to WordPress – or share your own WordPress story online. Here’s to another 10 years and more!