Yesterday, WordPress celebrated its 12th birthday.
To mark the occasion, I’m going to take a look at some of the biggest milestones in WordPress’s twelve-year history.
To date, the excellent team of core contributors have turned out 26 major WordPress updates. These updates have taken WordPress from a humble blogging software right to the global CMS superstar it is today.
Every update has contributed to this, but today I’ve picked out ten of the most important ones.
If you want to see a chronological timeline of WordPress’s history, read on! I’ll be showing you when the most important features and functionality was added.
WordPress is Born—Version 0.7—May 27, 2003
It all began on May 27, 2003.
WordPress was born from the ashes of the b2/cafelog blogging software. With b2 discontinued, a 19-year old freshman stepped in with the intention of creating a software fork that would eventually become WordPress.
His name: Matt Mullenweg.
He didn’t create WordPress alone, however. Matt partnered with Mike Little to create the first version of WordPress, version 0.7.
Compared to today’s WordPress, version 0.7 featured basic aesthetics and limited functionality—it feels a million miles away from the current version, 4.2. Twelve years ago, though, maximum simplicity was top of the agenda.
Even though the UI in the screenshot above looks super-basic, the WordPress 0.7 interface was actually a significant overhaul of the existing b2 interface. The familiar admin we use today just didn’t exist. Much of the functionality we take for granted was missing, too—you couldn’t even preview posts.
As limited as this first version was, it still had a few neat tricks up its sleeve. Manual Excerpts was probably the coolest feature, allowing you to draft a summary of your posts for RSS feeds.
The foundations for an easy-to-use blogging platform were laid, though; WordPress 0.7 included an intuitive text editor, which allowed users to draft and publish blog posts with ease.
Improved Installation and Comment Moderation—Version 1.0—January 3, 2004
Seven months later, the first full version of WordPress was released.
WordPress 1.0—named Davis after American jazz musician, Miles Davis—started the long-running tradition of honoring jazz musicians with each major release.
As well as some slight improvements to the aesthetics (see the screenshot above), WordPress 1.0 added some important functionality. This included significant improvements to the installation procedure, search-engine-friendly permalinks, and multiple categories per post.
Arguably the biggest new feature in WordPress 1.0, however, was comment moderation—spam was a nuisance as far back as 2004. The comment moderation system was easy to use, allowing you to approve/discard hundreds of comments at once.
Plugin Architecture—Version 1.2—May 22, 2004
Just before WordPress’s first birthday, WordPress 1.2 launched. This update took significant steps forward by introducing some awesome new features.
Although they may not have realized it at the time, 1.2 introduced one of the most groundbreaking WordPress features of all: the plugin architecture, which is still prevalent today.
Today the WordPress repository lists 38,000 plugins, with combined downloads falling just short of one billion. These are staggering statistics. The foundations for all this was laid in version 1.2.
Beyond plugin architecture, WordPress 1.2 introduced sub-categories, automatic thumbnail creation, and improved security with encrypted passwords. 1.2 was also the first version of WordPress to allow you to preview your posts before hitting publish—this was more limited than the current preview feature, though.
Themes, Pages, and the WordPress Dashboard—Version 1.5—February 17, 2005
February 2005 saw the WordPress 1.5 release, named Strayhorn after pianist Billy Strayhorn.
At the time of release, version 1.5 was the most user-focused WordPress upgrade to date. It was also one of the largest, introducing three important features we couldn’t imagine being without today.
Of all the new functionality added, it was the template and site customization feature that really stole the show.
Although referred to as templates at the time, WordPress 1.5 introduced the world to themes—and to celebrate, a new default ‘template,’ Kubrick, was installed as standard.
Themes allowed users to radically overhaul their website’s design and layout, by installing a pre-built ‘skin.’ This allowed WordPress users to craft beautiful websites with ease, and played an important role in the growth of the platform.
As with plugins, WordPress’s theme architecture has gone from strength to strength over the subsequent ten years. The repository lists almost 2,000 free themes, and there are thousands more premium ones available elsewhere.
Let’s move on to the next important feature: pages.
Pre-1.5, WordPress was exclusively a blogging platform—you could only publish posts on your blog. Version 1.5 made it possible to build your entire website with WordPress, by introducing static pages. This made WordPress a complete website solution—even for non-developers—and played a big part in the platform’s growing popularity.
The other major feature introduced in 1.5 was the WordPress dashboard. The WordPress dashboard allowed users to see all their important information in one convenient place, straight after logging in.
AJAX, WYSIWYG Editing, and User Roles—WordPress 2.0—December 31, 2005
WordPress closed out 2005 by releasing the next generation of WordPress: version 2.0.
This latest release featured an all new UI, with a new blue color scheme replacing the tired white one. More importantly, 2.0 introduced AJAX, making the most common tasks more efficient and improving back-end performance.
WordPress 2.0 also took the first steps towards the rich text editor we use today, with the introduction of a WYSIWYG editor. This took a lot of the guesswork out of formatting your blog posts.
Although post previews were introduced in version 1.2, WordPress 2.0 took this a step further. In a post-2.0 world, users could preview posts on the front-end of their websites – resembling the preview feature we use today.
Another important one, WordPress 2.0 was the first release to introduce user roles. This new feature allowed you to configure permission levels for different site users.
Widgets—WordPress 2.2—May 16, 2007
With WordPress about to turn 4 year’s old, WordPress 2.2 introduced another WordPress staple: widgets.
Originally available as a plugin, WordPress widgets allowed you to completely customize the sidebar and footer areas of your website. Using the drag-and-drop interface, you could place and re-order the different on-page elements to improve your website’s design, content, and navigation.
WordPress 2.2 also introduced jQuery, full Atom support, and infinite comment streams.
Tags—WordPress 2.3—September 25, 2007
OK, so WordPress 2.3 didn’t introduce any truly groundbreaking concepts, but it did see important smaller features added.
The most recognizable addition was native tags—tags, used in conjunction with categories, made it easier to organize your content.
2.3 saw the introduction of update notifications, too. WordPress checked to see if your plugins were all up to date by connecting your website with the api.wordpress.org service.
Other 2.3 additions included canonical URLs, pending review status for posts, and the WordPress editor’s kitchen sink button.
Redesigned UI and Quick-Install Plugins—WordPress 2.7—December 11, 2008
At first glance, version 2.7 seemed light in terms of new features, but this update revolutionized WordPress’s usability and represented a huge step forward.
Most notably, the entire WordPress UI was given a radical new facelift. This included a new sidebar menu, which was added to the left of the screen (see the screenshot above).
In fact, today’s modern UI has its roots in version 2.7—see the resemblance?
But it wasn’t just WordPress’s appearance that was improved. WordPress 2.7 introduced a drag-and-drop interface, allowing users to rearrange their dashboard and text editor—a sticky post feature was also added.
The developers weren’t done there, either; the efficiency of the WordPress admin was improved, too. This meant that familiar tasks could be completed in fewer clicks, thus taking less time.
Just as importantly, WordPress 2.7 made it super-easy to install plugins. Prior to 2.7, plugins had to be manually downloaded, uploaded, and installed. 2.7 added a plugin browser to the WordPress back-end, allowing users to install plugins in just a few clicks.
It was also the first update to support one-click updates for the WordPress core, plugins, and themes.
Custom Post Types and Taxonomies—WordPress 3.0—June 17, 2010
June 2010 marked the third generation of WordPress, with a new, groundbreaking release: version 3.0—named Thelonious.
After five years of service, the default Kubick theme was retired, with the new Twenty Ten theme taking its place.
Customization was king in WordPress 3.0, kick-starting a new generation of uber-customizable themes—WordPress 3.0 introduced custom backgrounds, custom headers, and advanced custom menus.
The most revolutionary new feature, however, was custom post types and taxonomies, which ushered in a new era of possibilities. For example, custom post types made it possible to create product pages, an important feature of all good eCommerce plugins. With custom post types now supported, version 3.0 took significant strides towards WordPress becoming the fully-fledged content management system (CMS) it is today.
Modern UI and Responsive Back-end—WordPress 3.8—December 28, 2013
Perhaps not the biggest update we’ve ever seen, WordPress 3.8 was included in this list for one notable reason.
The 3.8 release saw WordPress receive its biggest facelift yet, introducing a UI design that has remained relatively unchanged ever since.
The new design saw the end of the predominantly white aesthetics, replaced with the familiar grey and blue design. As well as the new default design, WordPress 3.8 also featured seven alternative admin color schemes, which could be activated at the click of a button.
Embracing the new ways in which users were accessing WordPress, the WordPress admin became fully responsive in 3.8, too.
Finally, the update introduced us to a new default theme: the magazine-style (and widely-unloved), Twenty Fourteen.
Happy Birthday, WordPress!
WordPress has come a long way in the last 12 years, as you can clearly see from the screenshots above.
It’s hard to imagine WordPress in the very earliest days, before all the familiar functionality was added. Of course, the platform is still a work in progress, so who knows what we have to look forward to!
Screenshots via churchm.ag
Which update do you think was most important to WordPress’s growth? Share your thoughts in the comments below!