Up to October, 2005 I had been using Blogger as the platform for my personal blog. It was fine, it was free and it was commonly used at the time for the above reasons. Unless you were savvy enough (which I wasn’t) to hand-code your own blog platform or install Movable Type on your own server, Blogger was pretty much the best game in town.
It was then that I got my “golden ticket” to use WordPress.com, something I was eager to do having heard good things about the nascent software from the techier side of the “new media marketing” world. It was invite-only as the team scaled up, though, so I had to wait until my number was called. As soon as I set it up, I was in love.
The interface was clean and professional, not as bubbly and slightly goofy as Blogger’s was. Writing in it was dead simple and offered much more in the way of categories, tags and other features that weren’t available in Blogger’s shallow end offering. That’s not to knock that platform as Blogger helped many people such as myself develop the online writing habit and begin to build our presence. Getting into WordPress, though, definitely felt like moving into the advanced group.
This weekend marks 15 years since the creators of WordPress first released it to the public and it’s humbling to think I’ve been using it for 13 of those. Over time my appreciation for WordPress has only grown as I’ve used it more and more and in a variety of different ways. It’s been my platform of choice whenever someone asks my opinion on starting their own blog or site, be it in a personal or professional context. My seven years working alongside the Voce Platforms team only deepened that love since they truly showed me the ways this incredibly powerful but also incredibly flexible software could be utilized on countless projects.
As we go deeper and deeper into a world governed by black box social algorithms and corporate platform ownership, WordPress remains that weird cousin who never got a job but who’s now a grown ass adult, unexpectedly thriving because he’s always surrounded by people who owe him favors and are happy to help because he’s helped them. It’s truly powered by the community and remains an open-source platform that, if you’re using the .org version you install on a server yourself, you’re free to modify as you wish as long as you don’t violate that open principal.
Automattic, the organization that manages WordPress, encourages people to pay into the system – contribute to the commons – in whatever way they can. Often that’s through building plugins, designing free themes or some other technical offering. That’s not my area of expertise but I *can* shout from the rooftops about how wonderful the platform is whenever I’m given the opportunity and do so with gusto.
I’ll admit I’ve flirted with Tumblr, Posterous, Medium and others, but I keep bringing it back to WordPress because dammit, it works and this is what I believe in. Don’t show me your curated feed, don’t feed me recommendations and cut off everything else. Just let me do my thing in the way that works for me and offer an RSS feed so I can broadcast to whoever’s interested.
There are things I wish WordPress would do more of, but very few times over the years have I thought it went too far, either in control or features. That, in our current online environment, is the right side of the line to be on.
So, all that being said, happy birthday, WordPress. Here’s to many happy, community-powered returns.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.