Seventeen. It is almost a lost year between sweet 16 and the adulthood that comes along with 18. For many, 17 is a rebellious age when they feel like they have already reached grown-up status but still have some hard lessons to learn, some growing to do. The past year of WordPress’s life has felt much the same. Our community has worked and is still working through some rough patches. We are still learning. We are still growing. For better or worse, we are still coming together to build a better web.
By its next birthday, we should expect to see a much different WordPress. It will have grown from a simple blogging platform to nearly a full site builder. The community will likely stumble a few times as users and developers acquaint themselves with an evolving platform. With luck, we can work through most of the kinks before that day arrives. For now, we will need to suffer a bit through this messy teenage rebellion.
Teens often see the world differently than those of us well into adulthood do. We must be there to temper the worst ideas but encourage the hopes and dreams that accompany the vision of youth. It is this vision that will change the world. I expect no less from WordPress in the coming years.
Currently, WordPress powers 36.7% of the top 10 million websites. It has come a long way since its humble beginnings as the basic fork of B2/cafelog that Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little kick-started in 2003. It has brought online publishing to millions and provided careers for 1,000s — I have been blessed with a 12-year career thanks to WordPress.
The first official release of WordPress landed on May 27, 2003. The platform included texturize (so good it’ll make your quotes curl), a link manager for building blogrolls, improved automatic line breaks, manual excerpts, XHTML 1.1, new default templates, and a fresh admin interface. Needless to say, the software has changed since its first release — can we make blogrolls cool again?
Perhaps the saddest part of WordPress’s 17th birthday is that most of us cannot celebrate it together in person. No slices of birthday cake will be passed to WordCamp attendees. We cannot share a hug or a handshake. We cannot clink our glasses together in a toast. However, we can still celebrate in spirit.
In Celebrate Seventeen, Mullenweg urges the community to enjoy this day:
If you’d like to celebrate with me, put on some jazz, eat some BBQ, light a candle for the contributors who have passed on, help a friend or stranger less technical than you build a home online, and remember that technology is at its best when it brings people together.
My addition to his list would be to hop over to your WordPress website and write a blog post. It can be anything. Write in celebration of WordPress turning 17. Write about your children, cats, or dogs. Share your feelings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever it is, just write. The best celebration of WordPress is to use the platform to do the one thing it was meant to do 17 years ago — publish something on the web.
Then, take a moment to appreciate the ability that we have to share our thoughts with the world. WordPress represents the most important, inalienable right that all humans share — freedom of expression. It has provided an avenue for people all over the world to share their thoughts for 17 years. That is not something to be taken lightly. So, let today be a celebration, despite the rough patch the world is going through. Let today be a celebration, regardless of our weekly arguments about the project’s future. Let today be a celebration of the people from all walks of life who have come together to build this amazing piece of software.
Most of all, take time to appreciate that we have an even brighter future to look forward to. WordPress may be a bit of a dinosaur in this fast-paced world of technological advancement, but it is not done yet. It may be going through a huge transitional phase at the moment, but we are not to the halfway point. We are just getting to the good stuff.
Buckle up. Look for the next 17 years to be an even wilder ride. I welcome the adventure.