Chapter 1

Catching up on 2013

WordPress by the numbers

In 2013, WordPress was ten years old, and a far cry from the small personal project it had been at the beginning of 2003.

At this point, more than half of all websites using a content management system were using WordPress. That came to 69 million websites, or 19% of all the websites online. One hundred thousand new WordPress websites were being created every day, and 500,000 daily new posts were published.

WordPress site users could choose from 26,252 plugins. 80 new themes were approved every month.

The WordPress official tally for 2013 was impressive. By the end of the year, there were 13,704,819 new WordPress blogs created in 2013 alone. 489,281,136 new posts had been published. 667,675,929 comments had been posted — an average of 21 comments in each second of 2013. Posts had received 95,424,985 Likes.

The goal of WordPress was then as it is today, the democratization of publishing. 10 years into the project, building a website and publishing it online, thanks to the WordPress platform, was easier than ever before. People were able to connect with other enthusiasts of any interest, however small the group of enthusiasts might be. Everyone could find their clique anywhere in the world. The world had never experienced this degree of connection, digital or otherwise, before.

WordPress was no longer just a blogging platform. It was the content management system that empowered users and let them make sure that their websites were more than a pretty face. For the first time, an individual with a dream could create an online presence with the same kind of presence and heft as a major company. A small nonprofit could show its commitment to its cause and bring in volunteers and donations just like a well-established organization. From fantasy sports leagues to town history archives, every project could find its home on the web.

Matt reported in his State of the Word address for 2013 that 69% of respondents said they were using WordPress as a content management system, not as a blogging platform.

It was not by any means the only web-building platform or content management system available, but WordPress stood out among its competitors. The famous five-minute install meant that everyone could – if they were willing to put in the effort to learn – build their own website. The system of themes and plugins allowed site owners to create a look and functionality that would have required many hours of professional design and development just a few years before.

And the supportive WordPress community allowed people to share their strengths and benefit from others’ strengths to a degree not seen on other platforms. An open source solution drew involvement and encouraged innovation. A welcoming community brought people to solve challenges and figure out ways to accomplish their goals.

In fact, the annual WordPress survey in 2013 brought more than 30,000 responses from 178 countries, and there were two top favorite characteristics of WordPress: its ease of use, and the community.

The impressive statistics about WordPress were just a reflection of the power of the software and its community.

2013 Releases

The WordPress 3.6 release was due in August of 2013 with Revamped Revisions. The Twenty Thirteen theme added a touch of color and a controversial one-column layout to the annual themes update. By 3.8, auto updates for minor releases were added to core. 3.8 also brought a new user interface, which was first released as a plugin named MP6, allowing it to reap all the benefits of proper community vetting and feedback before its merge into core.

Matías Ventura, the lead architect of Gutenberg, recalls that the 2013 version releases tried to build a new user interface around post formats: identifying posts as quotes, videos, standard posts, images, etc. Other content management systems had done this. The experiment wasn’t successful, so the team decided to “embrace the flexibility of WordPress.” Looking back, this was one of the steps along the way to Gutenberg.


Core committers continued to make their marks on the software, and the Project and community worked to stabilize and iterate upon the work completed before 2013. But 2013 was also the year that the WordPress community learned that Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, had bought WPTavern. WPTavern, at that time, was a news site founded by Jeff Chandler, reporting on all things The purchase took place in 2011, but the identity of the buyer was not revealed until 2013.

Matt later revealed that his motivation was simple. “Jeff wanted to step back from WPTavern and had an offer, but I thought it wasn’t really fair given the years and effort he had put into the blog,” he said in comments at the WPTavern site. “Even if he wasn’t going to be part of the WordPress world anymore I wanted him to go out of it with the best deal possible.”

Besides, he continued, “WPTavern could be a ‘third place’ for the WordPress community.”

But the choice to buy the online publication was controversial. Kevin Muldoon of WPHub said it this way:

I think most people would agree that the company behind a product or service should not own the websites that break news about it. News should be impartial and for a website to be truly impartial, it cannot be owned by the same company. Web Tools Collection will remain as an archive, however, Matt wasted no time in adding WPTavern to the “Other WordPress News” widget on the admin dashboard. This instantly added links to WPTavern on millions of websites online. Every post that is published there is added to your admin area.

I am a huge fan of Matt and love his views on open source, though I feel that trying to control how the flow of news is the wrong way to go. That should be left to the community. What do you think?

And a few people had a lot to say about it. Despite concerns that the official source of funding for WPTavern could make it less objective in its journalistic pursuits, most reactions were positive and congratulatory.

Chandler stayed on as the main content producer for WPTavern until 2019.

Wrapping up 2013

As the year came to an end, WordPress users had a sleek new dashboard, the ability to add widgets with a single click, a new highly visual way to choose themes, and a choice of color schemes for their admin areas. WordPress reaffirmed its commitment to the freedom to publish, offering better security along with robust capability that expanded the possibilities for WordPress and for WordPress users.

In Matt’s State of the Word address for 2013, he described a WYSIWYG editor that would allow users to drag and drop sections. Looking at it now, we can clearly see the foreshadowing of Gutenberg…but that’s a story for another chapter.

WordPress was ready to take on 2014.