When Matt Mullenweg launched WordPress back in 2003 as a fork of b2, no one, not even himself or co-founder Mike Little, could have anticipated the huge popularity it would come to enjoy in just ten years time. As Mullenweg outlined it then, theirs was just an attempt at improving the code of an existing blogging software to suit some specific requirements that the pair and a few other developers had in mind at the time.
WordPress is still described as an “advanced blogging tool” by its developers, but the reality is that it has by now evolved far beyond its initial blogging objectives into a fully-featured Content Management System capable of powering just about any type of website imaginable.
The first meaningful step in that evolution came around in 2004 with Version 1.2 that integrated a plugins system that made possible to enhance its functionality without modifying its core files. That was the same year when Movable Type, its main competitor, decided to go commercial, pushing hordes of disenchanted users towards the Open Source solution WordPress provided.
A Themes system that simplified the control of the layout was added shortly after, together with a redesigned back-end that included a new user role system and the possibility of creating static pages in the same way as ‘dynamic’ posts.
Another bunch of massive updates followed in 2007 that included much demanded functionality such as widgets, an improved UI, custom URLs, a new taxonomy system, auto-save, spell check, tagging, and general speed optimizations.
2008 and 2009 saw a big effort towards the redesign of the administration UI in order to improve usability and create an admin tool more customizable, making WordPress much more user-friendly, arguably the single most important feature that really set WordPress ahead of the rest of popular Content Management Systems. Other important improvements during that year were automatic upgrading, built-in plugin installation, built-in theme installer, and a new API.
Version 3.0, released in 2010, introduced custom post types, simplified custom taxonomies, added custom menu management, and supplemented the system with new API’s for custom headers and custom backgrounds. The MultiSite option was also made natively available for the first time, allowing the management of multiple WordPress websites under the same administration back-end. This version came bundled with a new default theme called “Twenty Ten“, a big step forward both in terms of design and functionality when compared to previous “official” default Themes. “Twenty Eleven” and “Twenty Twelve” in corresponding years got even better, although many web designers don’t feel the same way about the recently released “Twenty Thirteen“.
Nonetheless, the point in case is how over the years WordPress has developed from a simple blogging engine into a very sophisticated Content Management System, that thanks to its Open Source nature is completely customizable. Today, the possibilities WordPress offers are practically endless. Online Shops, Social Network Portals, Customer Relationship Management Systems, Forums, Wikis, Classified Sites, and just about any kind of website you can think of can be created with WordPress and the modules from its huge repository of plugins and Themes.
As of September 2013 WordPress powers almost 20% of all new websites, which makes it the most popular Content Management System in use on the Web by far, with more than 65 million websites. Among the brands that are using WordPress you’ll find big names such as CNN, MSNBC, NYTimes Blogs, Wall Street Journal, Techcrunch, Samsung, Network Solutions, Variety, The Rolling Stones, etc.
With such popularity the platform has naturally attracted the crème de la crème of the web design and web development industries, who keep producing a relentless flow of high-quality WordPress-powered websites. To get an idea of the possibilities WordPress offers as a CMS see below a few of our Editor’s websites picks from all over the world, with a special emphasis on those Made in Canada: