The Remarkable Rise of WordPress

wp-market-shareThis morning I was reflecting on the remarkable rise of WordPress over the last five years. It really has ascended to uncanny territory. Today, if you come across a website on the Web – any website – there’s a better than 25% chance that it’s a WordPress site. That’s right, one quarter of the entire Web is now running on WordPress. That really is incredible. While there was a time when WordPress was in the heat of the pack with other comers like Joomla and Drupal, it has long since left those competitors in the dust.

I have been in web design and development long enough to remember when WordPress first emerged. For a long time it was just one of several popular blogging platforms. That’s right – blogging, nothing else, really. At first WordPress just wanted to help make regular blogging (which emerged as a word short for “web-logging”) that much more intuitive and user-friendly. I’ll say it did that – and then some!

Six or seven years ago, Joomla was the got-to platform if you wanted more robust, full-functioning content management features. Even I was reluctant at first to see WordPress as a competitor to Joomla – because it was so solely blogging-focused. But then, slowly but surely, WordPress began to build out its features. Soon it became a legitimate way to run a small website – even if it wasn’t yet “enterprise-ready”.

But of course, WordPress didn’t stop there. New features emerged that, much more than mere add-ons, were broad-ranging tools to help you manage your website content in a robust, multi-faceted way. Around this time I remember having to help others realize that WordPress had become much more than just a blogging platform. It took some convincing, I tell you; especially for those who were accustomed to using Joomla. I certainly don’t find myself in those conversations very often today.

Once the feature-levels were pretty equal, WordPress stood head and shoulders above Joomla. And why? Well, in my mind, it had everything to do with WordPress’ commitment to backwards compatibility. In laymen’s terms, that meant your site wouldn’t just suddenly break after an update. With Joomla, on the other hand, clients were forced to rework entire websites because there was no simple way to upgrade when Joomla came out with a new version. Not only was the old version incompatible with the new, but even if you stayed with the old version, you were soon wide-open to malicious attack – because security became a nightmare without official support from Joomla.

WordPress on the other hand, makes updates incrementally. And when they are rolled out, the build team works hard to make sure older sites are compatible. Sure, some of the new features might not run when you update to a newer version of WordPress while using an older theme, but your site won’t break. This alone is enough to make WordPress the clear choice. The fact that Joomla hasn’t followed a similar path is the biggest reason for its demise, in my mind.

On top of that, the WordPress administration panel presentation is, in most people’s minds, just more intuitive than it’s competitors. Sure, if you’re coming from Joomla or Drupal, it’ll take some getting used to. But in my experience the learning curve is much gentler to the average user. And, as a web developer, the fact that I can customize the admin panel presentation – so as to, for instance, make it so clients can’t accidentally break their own sites by accessing source code – just makes it that much more appealing.

It’s for these reasons, as well as the plethora of amazing functionality readily available through the open-source driven plugin community, that have helped WordPress rise to such dizzying heights. And the trend continues. As of today, WordPress has gained another two percent market share from the same date last year. Joomla, on the other hand, now only accounts for under 3% of all sites, and Drupal even less than that. As I’ve said elsewhere on this site – which itself runs on WordPress – if you’re looking for a new website, whether simple, mid-sized, or enterprise-level, nine times out of ten WordPress is your best option. It really has carved out a part of the market that no other platform can currently touch.

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