Historic WordPress Project Seeks Contributors

Have you ever wondered what WordPress looked like back in the early days, before it was used by millions of website around the web? Ryan Hellyer has created a series of static representations of the very early versions of WordPress. The Historic WordPress project aims to showcase both the frontend and backend of the software for each release.

Viewing the old versions is like opening a time capsule from 10 years ago. It’s amazing to see how much the interface has changed, and yet the basics of publishing to the web remain the same. For example, take a look at the post editor from WordPress 0.71 Gold, released May 27, 2003:


If you make your way through each release chronologically, you’ll see subtle changes in WordPress over the years, along with a few big design shifts. Hellyer has created the static sites up through version 2.7 and is hoping to add contributors to help finish out the rest.

“There are a bunch of them which are missing and I’m now looking for people to help out with the project,” he said. “I have a GitHub repository, and I just need people to send patches/pull requests, etc. to beef it up with newer versions and iron out any bugs they may find.”

The sites are static representations and not actual installations, due to security reasons. However, many of the links still click through so that you can navigate around to explore other admin pages. When creating the sites, Hellyer saves the live page as raw static HTML, CSS and JavaScript so that they it’s still able to be viewed in the browser. The process isn’t very difficult, but it is time-consuming:

To create each one, I install the relevant version of WordPress and then go through and export static pages for the main admin pages, plus some on the frontend. Once I have the page in it’s static form, I go through and fix as many URL’s as possible to make them reference other static pages I create. I try to add as many different admin pages as possible so that you can click through them all, but each one takes some time, so many are missing.

Hellyer is optimistic that new contributors may have a more automated way of creating the sites, as the current manual procedure is quite slow. He plans to keep the project only to static pages until that part is complete but may expand to add more information in the future.

The Importance of WordPress History

For those who have been involved in building WordPress for a long time, the importance of historic resources might seem to be self-evident. However, as the software continues to blaze forward, some newcomers may look at the historic project and wonder what use it is to have these static sites available.

Hellyer believes that the project is a valuable resource for both new WordPress users and long-time experts alike.

“I enjoy being able to look back on what things looked like and see how far we’ve come,” he said. “My own blog is basically a look back on my own life, so I guess that sort of thing interests me. I also think it’s important for new folks in the WordPress community to see where some of the software’s internal logic comes from.”

Hellyer had the idea for the project for a long time but became more motivated after a discussion with Siobhan McKeown. He recently transferred the site over to its own subdomain and made the interactive static sites public for all to enjoy.

If you have any feedback or would like to get involved in preparing these small slices of WordPress history, Hellyer encourages you to get in touch. “I’m happy to add contributors to the GitHub repository so that they can update the Historic WordPress website automatically. (I’ll set up an automatic Git deployment for this),” he said. “I’m keen on as many people as possible contributing by preparing new versions and fixing existing bugs.”


10 responses to “Historic WordPress Project Seeks Contributors”

      • I’ve had good results with wget before. The mirror flag turns on recursion so wget can save a whole website with a single command. This wouldn’t save wp-admin though (you would probably need to disable the login to get this to work but make a db backup first if you try this). Note: the flags above should be prefixed with a double dash. I think these got stripped out when I commented.

  1. This is an idea I had in mind for a long time, only did I want to provide real installations of these WordPress versions. The sites could be containerized or something like that. Also, I wanted to provide some more context about the versions (introduction, etc.). We’ll see how this project comes along. Maybe I’ll find time to contribute to it, too!


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