If there was a question that ever made me start feeling old, it might be this one. Last week, Marcel Bootsman asked via Twitter, “Why did you start to use WordPress?”
WordPress community members chimed in with all sorts of reasons for hopping aboard, and Jeff Chandler of WP Mainline shared his journey on his site. These are the sort of discussions of nostalgia that I live for. What follows is my story.
I began blogging in 2003. A friend had introduced me to a now-defunct service called Expage. We mostly used it similarly to the early Myspace craze, adding things such as shout-outs to friends, random GIFs, scrolling marquee text, and midi files that blared as soon as a visitor landed on the page. But, I soon began learning how to link together multiple “Expages” (you only got one page), eventually building something of a journal.
After realizing the limitations of creating multiple accounts and passwords for different pages, I found Yahoo! GeoCities. After a short-lived stint with the service and being stifled by its roadblocks, I soon upgraded to a web hosting plan offered by Yahoo! with full PHP support. That meant I could do dynamic things like having multiple text files to store my blog post entries.
Thus, began my journey into building my own blogging system. Over the next couple of years, I kept my online journal open to the world with what felt like duct tape and old-fashioned grit. I tried WordPress at some point along the way and took a dive into PHP-Nuke and a couple of others. I then jumped back to my own system. I knew just enough PHP to be a flashing beacon for hacker-bots to push those little blue pills if they had ever bothered looking in my direction. Of course, my blog was so obscure that its glaring security holes did not register on any radar.
It was a week after I turned 21. On May 8, 2005, I had decided to get serious — yet again — about fixing my digital playground of a website. I would ditch any efforts of moving everything over to WordPress or another CMS. I was a lone wolf and was going to trek into the world wild web with nothing but my existing knowledge and instincts.
It was a fun era on the web for me. I was also a college student with an ever-changing list of interests, often varying by the day. Building a custom blogging system has never been an easy feat, and managing it all through plain text files had become a burden.
A mere five days later, I caved on my dream of managing a custom platform, but I needed to do so for my own sanity.
I simply began using WordPress because it made it easy to manage blog posts.
There were no special features like the editor, custom post types, or anything else that has brought so many others to the project. It was simply having a nicely organized posts management screen and the output of those posts on the front end. Relative to other systems at the time, it was also easy to install.
At the time, I probably did not think much of it. It was just another project in a line of others that I had tested, but I am happy I took the leap. WordPress has given me a career and, often, a purpose in life. It allowed me to grow as a developer, designer, and writer.
It may be blasphemy to say such things in WordPress circles, but my personal blog no longer runs on our beloved platform. After all these years, I have come full circle. My original goal was to build a flat-file blogging system, even though I did not know there was a name for such a thing back in the early-to-mid 2000s. I also did not have the requisite knowledge to build it at the time. However, in 2018, I coded my own system from scratch, and I loved every minute of that initial build. In part, I had a new project to tinker with, but it also carried a bit of the nostalgic factor of re-pioneering my early foray into the web.
While a custom blogging platform works for my own purposes, it makes me appreciate WordPress even more. It is hard to understand how much work goes into something as seemingly simple as the front-end architecture until you build it from the ground up. And, let us just skip over any talk of creating a secure and accessible admin interface that is user-friendly.
For any serious endeavor, WordPress is still my go-to solution — my personal site is a playground where I can afford to break things, after all. After our 16-year relationship, I do not see that changing at any point soon. As always, something exciting is around the corner. The platform keeps me on my toes, and I cannot imagine a world without it.
How or why did you begin using WordPress?