All of us here love WordPress. Have you ever wondered why some WordPress versions were more successful than others? And what can be done better in the future?
For the last 3 years I’ve been monitoring WordPress stats, here are some of my insights:
WordPress as a CMS
According to w3techs trends, 68% of all websites use self-developed CMS, the other 32% use shelf CMS’s. From all those sites that use a shelf CMS, WordPress market share is 54.6% – more than all other CMS’s combined, which makes WordPress the most popular CMS on the internet (!)
W3techs trends also reveal that 17.4% of the websites use WordPress as a content management system, compared to 15.8% in the same period last year. The statistics on builtwith.com show that WordPress is used by over 14.2% of the ”Top Million” sites, compared to 12.4% last year.
According to Automattic, there are 62.9 million WordPress websites worldwide, both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.org. Version stats show that 27% use WordPress 3.5, approximately 27% use WordPress 3.4, about 15% use WordPress 3.3, about 6% use WordPress 3.2, only 4% use WordPress 3.1, and 20% use WordPress 3.0.
This means that 73% use an unsecure WordPress version. If you’re still into numbers, that’s approximately 46 million WordPress installations.
15 Million Downloads for WordPress 3.5
Filltering the 15 million downloads by language shows us that the most popular language is the English (en_US) language with 8.8 million downloads, 58.6%.
The second most popular language is the Chinese (zh_CN) language with 1.3 million downloads, 8.6%. Followed by the Russian (ru_RU) language with 892 thousand downloads, 5.9%. The fourth place belongs to the French (fr_FR) language with 533 thousand downloads, 3.5%.
And the fifth place belong to the Spanish (es_ES) language with 524 thousand downloads, 3.5%. Data source: “Downloads Stats” on WordPress.org Dashboard.
Growing and Growing
As time passes, the system receives a growing number of downloads. It’s trivial that new websites will choose to adopt WordPress (as a popular CMS), and that existing users will upgrade to the newest versions. But not each and every new version has a killer feature that urges us to upgrade.
The stats show that only with 3.0, 3.3 and 3.4 we were able to see a growing adoption rate of those versions. Why is that?
Now let’s reviewed each version and the new features came with it, and examine why some versions are more popular than others:
WordPress 3.0 was downloaded more than 30 million times, which averages around 140 thousand daily downloads. This version introduced custom post types, it made custom taxonomies simpler, added custom menu management, new API’s for custom headers and custom backgrounds, introduced a new default theme (“Twenty Ten”) and allowed the management of multiple sites (Multisite), as well as many new tools for developers.
With this version WordPress transformed from a blogging platform to CMS. As a groundbreaking version and a widely-acclaimed one, the total number of downloads was expected to skyrocket, and indeed has exceeded the expectations.
Version 3.1 introduced internal linking, post format and the admin bar. And 3.2 changed the minimum system requirements to PHP 5.2.4 and MySQL 5.0.15, refreshed the full screen edtor and introduced a new default theme (“Twenty Eleven”). The stats show a drop in adoption rate for 3.1 and 3.2 to an average of 114 thousand daily downloads and 95 thousand, respectively. Those two version had no major or memorable improvements, neither for developers nor for the users, and the stats reflect that.
WordPress 3.3 made the dashboard more friendly for newcomers with a welcome screen and feature pointers. The stats show an increase in adoption rate, not as high as 3.0 but still a notable increase. This version was downloaded more than 20 million times as the focus on “New User Experience” raised the average download rate per day to 116 thousand.
The real surge came with WordPress 3.4. This version introduced the theme-customizer and the theme-previewer which made it easier to make changes on the theme without affecting the live site. This tool decreased the development time for a lot of WordPress developers, and it made it easier for site owners to experiment with design changes before finally adopting them and deploying to the public. This version was downloaded more than 25 million times, with a daily average of 162 thousand downloads.
Not much later came WordPress 3.5, which introduced a new media manager and a new default theme (“Twenty Twelve”). This version solved one of the major weaknesses of the system at that time – managing and uploading media files. So far, it was downloaded 15 million times, with an average of 144 thousand downloads per day.
In my opinion the stats go up only when the core team focuses on new major features for developers. The UI improvements and other user friendly improvements don’t have much of an influence on the adoption rate. And frankly, it’s highly understandable, since developers are responsible for the upgrade. If new WordPress versions have new features that will make developer’s life easier, they will convince their clients to upgrade. Otherwise, why should they bother? If new versions offer interesting API’s, developers will use it to build more interesting sites. Give us new tools and we will change the Internet.
This hypothesis will be examined with the upcoming release of WordPress 3.6, in which the emphasis is on interface improvements for power users without any memorable changes for developers.
If the daily download count for 3.6 will remain still, the hypothesis is correct.