WordPress.com, the commercial service owned and operated by Automattic has undergone a redesign. Now, I can’t tell you what changed and what didn’t because I don’t visit the site often enough to notice the changes. However, if I had to take a guess, I’d say the footer is different, some things have been rearranged, but overall, the clean and simplistic look is still there.
However, upon looking for a screenshot of WordPress.com before these recent changes, I dove into some WordPress.com history based on the results of the Internet Archive. WordPress.com has been around for a long time, long before I even knew there was a WordPress. Upon browsing through the results that the internet archive has, it’s very interesting to see the progression of the site/service. At one point, it looks like Matt or Automattic lost control of the WordPress.com domain but eventually got it back. Also worthy of note are the links to OpenDomain.org which was a service that provided opensource project domains. I have no idea if WordPress was an open domain or not but it certainly appears as though Drupal.com was.
With all that said, lets take a visual tour down memory lane of the WordPress.com domain with special thanks to the Internet Archive.
July 2004 – Dec 2004
WordPress.com displays a parked domain page for the better part of the year and during the middle of December of 2004, WordPress.com turns into a free domain that is available for use as an open source project.
Feb 2005 – May 2005
WordPress.com goes through a few errors during the first part of the year but during May, WordPress.com ends up back in control of the WordPress team. Obviously, this implies that they lost control of the domain some how. Not sure what happened but this is the first time in the Internet Archive where I see the WordPress image logo for the first time. Also, it’s the first time I see a link to WordPress.org which just for giggles, I highly encourage you to check out what it looked like at the time the link was published. My goodness, that design reminds me of bbPress today! Good thing they are getting a redesign!
May 2005 – July 2005
The same WordPress logo and page text stuck around from May to mid July but around July 28th, the excitement level for WordPress.com should have been ramping up as the page offered up a form to sign where interested users could be notified once the site went live. The signup also reserved the person’s username.
July 2005 – August 2005
Soon after the form goes online, WordPress.com goes through a minor redesign on August 17th where users can enter their invite code or signup to receive an invite code. At this time, the credit link on the bottom of WordPress.com says that WP.com is powered by WordPress. At this point, we can say hello to the beginning of the branding nightmare that haunts us today.
During the month of September, WordPress.com introduces Hot Blogs Today alongside the invitation form which till this day, still exists on the front page of WordPress.com. Among some of the hot blogs at the time were Matt On WordPress, Lorelle On WordPress, Ryan On WordPress, and Ubuntu Blog. Also on this page, there is text where the Open Domain link used to be which says Domain Donated By Ric Johnson. Just as a WordPress.org tidbit, version 1.5.2 was making it’s way around the web.
Around October 23rd of 2005, WordPress.com sports their support of the Flock browser. They consider it to be like FireFox but with goodies.
On November 24th, 2005 the archive of WordPress.com showcases the full design instead of a CSS less page. We get to see the blue colors, the WordPress.com logo and the W. On November 30th for the first time, WordPress.com displays an image logo of Automattic in the bottom right hand corner. The image linked to a landing page for Automattic.com which also linked to WordPress.com and Akismet. What I find fascinating is that the Akismet site design has been the same since 2005 but it has always looked refreshing to me and it still does.
On December 10th, 2005 the WordPress.com homepage changes to show a Username And Password box. Above the login form, there is text that explains WordPress.com has over 37,000 other bloggers on the service. Below the login form is a block that features WordPress.com news. Also on December 10th, the WordPress.com header design features snow flakes which has become a tradition. Just two days later on December 14th, the number jumps up to 39,000 bloggers. By the time December 31st arrives, WordPress.com has over 51,000 users.
WordPress.com adds a section to the homepage that enables users to submit their email address to retrieve their activation key. At this time, WP.com has over 92,000 users. Also introduced is a change to the WordPress.org promotion link at the bottom of the page. Instead of a link to WordPress.org, it took you to WordPress.org/hosting as a list of recommended webhosts with affiliate links to those webhosts. This page exists today and amazingly, is not that much different.
WordPress.com introduced a new navigation link called Topics which was in fact, tag functionality in WordPress in beta form. On the WordPress.org side of things, WordPress was at version 2.0.2. Also, WP.com now had over 119,000 users.
In June, WordPress.com added the Blogs Of The Day to their front page.
In addition to hot blogs of the day, hot posts of the day were also linked to from the WP.com homepage. Also in July, a new link was added to the footer (Contact Support) where users could contact support through a contact form.
The footer of WordPress.com become a little bigger since it was filled with links to other languages of the site. A link to notable users on WordPress.com was also added to the frontpage. Apparently, these were the cool kids. Just for giggles, the text on the contact page was changed to highlight the fact that only blogs with urls that contain WordPress.com would be supported with a link to the WordPress.org forums for other users.
After realizing that all of those language links broke the design of the footer, it was changed in September so that only a few other languages were displayed with a link to more.
WordPress.com realizes it has hundreds of great features to offer new bloggers. At this point, the service hosts over 399,000 blogs. A FAQ link is added to the footer.
A small avatar shows up alongside links to the hot posts of the day. Instead of the login text asking if you already have an account, it now asks whether you’re already hip? Matt’s personalty is sinking into more of the service. Two new links are added to the footer. Features and Advanced. This is around the time when VIP hosting was introduced to the Automattic Mix.
February 2007 – July 2007
WordPress.com looks like a mess in the Internet Archive in this time span so it’s tough to gauge what’s new or what’s been taken away. If you’re really curious about these months, check out the archive for the domain yourself and click on them.
August 2007 – February 2008
WordPress.com receives a huge redesign which completely reshapes the display of the frontpage. It doesn’t look as great as what the actual design looked like because of some archive issues but basically, everything on the page received some attention. By this time, Automattic was getting ready to acquire Gravatar which they did on October 18th. One thing that was introduced with the brand new design is Stats. After the major redesign, it was basically business as normal as according to the archived pages from the Wayback Machine, nothing really changed. The last page that is accessible on the Internet Archive of WordPress.com is February 15th, 2008.
Wayback Machine Is Awesome:
It really is. Without it, I would have never been able to see things from that moment in time regarding the state of WordPress.org, Automattic, WordPress.com, Akismet, etc. One thing I learned while compiling this post is how awesome it is to click on a link in an archived page from the Wayback Machine and see the content linked to as it was in that time frame which gives me a much better picture of that time period. For example, during my clicking around, I saw WordPress.org sporting sponsored links which we know by now, Matt learned his lesson. In any case, I hope this dial-up crushing page not only enabled you to learn a thing a two from the past regarding WordPress.com, WordPress.org, or Automattic, but I hope it gives you a sense of appreciation for how far the project has come, thanks in large part to the contributions of code from volunteers.