According to its official website, WordPress (WP) now powers more than 17 percent of the World Wide Web. The content management system (CMS) far outpaces other CMSs, such as Drupal and Joomla.
Despite its success, however, many companies write off WordPress as “just another blogging tool.” Many people wonder whether this consumer tool can really deliver the complete online experience for their businesses.
Word on the Street
Thousands of companies use WordPress. The New York Times, CNN, UPS and Sony all use WP to power their blogs, which are read by millions of users worldwide. The idea that WordPress is confined to blogging remains pervasive, but WordPress use is changing. As the WordPress Showcase page notes, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Sweden’s official website are powered entirely by WordPress; so are technology websites Gigaom and TechCrunch, along with InStyle.com and the New York Observer.
The Amazing Evolution of WordPress
So how did this humble CMS make the jump from personal use to industry standard? It started in 2001, when Michel Valdrighi launched b2 cafelog, a stylish, streamlined blogging platform. In 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little “forked” b2’s source code to create WordPress version 0.71 (Gold). It had no dashboard but allowed users to assign a status — Publish, Draft or Private — to a post. Compared to other platforms available at the time, WP was a godsend.
The year 2004 saw the release of version 1.0 (Miles), giving users the ability to assign multiple categories to posts and to include search-engine-friendly permalinks. Version 1.2 (Mingus) was released the same year and introduced plugins. In 2005, version 1.5 (Strayhorn) featured the first iteration of WP’s popular dashboard. Version 2.0 (Ellington) also went live in 2005 and gave users the advanced TinyMCE editor and the ability to upload images. By 2008, the platform was being used by thousands of bloggers worldwide; versions 2.5 (Brecker) and 2.7 (Coltrane) included support for multiple image uploads and a sidebar of links to essential WP tools, along with a one-click plugin installer.
By 2010, the core components of WordPress were stable, useful and extremely popular. The next three years focused on making WordPress content easily searchable and manageable. The most recent version, 3.8 (Parker) introduced a new admin design and default theme named “Twenty Fourteen.”
What’s the Big Deal About WordPress?
Sure, WordPress has made a name for itself among bloggers and businesses alike. But with a host of website design tools available online, why use this blog-platform-turned-CMS? First, it’s free. No licensing fee, no purchase agreement. Free. Reputable web hosts support WordPress deployments, and many hosts have developed custom themes they make available to clients at no charge. The platform is easy to use, intuitive and browser-based, meaning any Internet-enabled computer can be used to manage content. WordPress also has clean and simple code, making it attractive to popular search engines.
But solid infrastructure isn’t the only benefit of WordPress. Plugins exist to make every aspect of site management easier; W3 Total Cache, for example, improves website speed for users by scaling down the size of CSS, JS and HTML resources. Meanwhile, the Google XML Sitemaps plugin generates an XML sitemap that helps search engines better index a company’s website, and the All in One SEO Pack helps optimize content.
Relegating WordPress to the status of “blogging tool” is easy to do because the platform is free, it’s simple to use and it focuses on general functionality, leaving third parties to create specific-use plugins. But many companies miss the true value of this CMS: flexibility.
WordPress empowers companies to create how they want, when they want, and frees them up to spend more time running, promoting and managing their businesses and less time haggling with the backend infrastructure of a siloed CMS.