While the web evolves, WordPress keeps the lights on

Despite getting the fly-over from the wider web community, WordPress has achieved historic growth, powering a massive slice of the day-to-day operations.

Pattern, Abstract, Modern, Curves, Shapes, Solid, Composition, Minimal, Paper, Colorful

Let’s face it: WordPress has never been super cool in the web design and web development world. It’s not winning any design awards. It’s not making it to the top of Hacker News. It’s not what people talk about at the biggest web industry events and conferences. It’s barely ever mentioned in tech media, aside from the yearly “Is WordPress secure?” article.

And despite all this, WordPress has grown to power a larger slice of the internet than virtually every other CMS and website building SaaS combined. And it’s not even close.

  • WordPress is used by 43.2% of all websites on the internet
  • WordPress is used by 65.2% of all websites using a content management system
  • WordPress powers 36.28% of the top 1 million websites
  • WordPress has been the fastest growing content management system for 12 years in a row
  • The WordPress economy is estimated to be valued at $636 billion

These are staggering numbers — an achievement that won’t be matched by any other solution in this space for decades. So, why aren’t people talking about this?

Jeremy Pollock, VP of Product at WP Engine, spots the discrepancy

I’m actually not even interested in speculating the many reasons WordPress gets the treatment it does.

Is it because how dated the admin looks? Is it because, historically, it’s been powered by PHP (apparently also “uncool”)? Is it because the lack of standards has fragmented the user experience and product ecosystem? Who knows!

Meet your maker

What I do want to speculate on is how many of the platforms and tools that we have today were possible because of WordPress. After all, WordPress’s influence extends far beyond the 43% of the internet it powers.

Let’s start with the obvious ones. Would we have Medium, Ghost, Substack, Squarespace, Wix, Webflow, or Shopify if WordPress didn’t light the way and show what was possible? Maybe? Eventually?

Even as established as these companies are, many of them still bare the imprint of WordPress. You don’t even have to squint to see it.

Would we have Medium, Ghost, Substack, Squarespace, Wix, or Webflow if WordPress didn’t light the way?

What about the hundreds of other CMSs that have sprung up along the way? Would they be here without WordPress showing how to handle content models, taxonomies, hierarchy, templating, and everything else? It’s hard to imagine.

Looking downmarket

Let’s get a little more granular. I would even suggest that the success of website tools like Google fonts, icon libraries like Font Awesome, stock image sites, analytics, CSS frameworks, and SEO expertise all proliferated because of WordPress.

Sure, all kinds of websites use these tools, but the sheer size of the WordPress ecosystem means that it owns an outsized responsibility in delivering these tools to the web. The numbers don’t lie.

Would these tools have found their footing without a vast and extensible delivery mechanism like WordPress? This is also hard to imagine.

Looking upmarket

We can also take this thought experiment upmarket. What about the billion dollar website hosts out there? It seems to me, at a certain point, there probably weren’t a lot of HTML sites launching on the web’s biggest hosts.

In fact, we’ve been watching the transition from “website hosts” to “WordPress hosts” for many years now. Of course, now hosts are branching out into headless and other solutions, but I don’t need to see their quarterly statements to know that WordPress-powered websites still make up a significant portion of their revenue.

WordPress keeps the lights on

Despite how WordPress has been perceived or overlooked over the years, you simply can’t deny its success and the imprint that it’s left on the web. For all of its quirks and shortcomings, it’s been an overwhelming net positive for web publishing and creator empowerment.

The Value of WordPress: $636 Billion

WordPress isn’t a quirky little CMS anymore. It’s a whole economy.

Whether it’s a Fortune 500 company or a cash-strapped non-profit, they’re not reaching for a hip, new tech stack to get a website out the door. Not yet. They’re still reaching for WordPress. There is a stability, practicality, flexibility, and affordability that WordPress still provides unlike any other platform out there.

While the “cool” web communities dabble in shiny new frameworks and no-code tools that may power the next generation, WordPress is, and always has been, hard at work keeping the day-to-day web up and running.

Make no mistake, new web platforms are finding their footing as we speak, and may very well be the future of web publishing. But for now, WordPress is keeping the lights on, and I think that’s super cool.

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