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WordPress Now Powers 39.5% of the Web

Last month in the annual “State of the Word” presentation for 2020, Automattic CEO and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg announced that WordPress now powered 39% of websites, as measured by W3Techs. The number has actually grown a bit more since that time to 39.5%.1 Perhaps by next month it will pass 40%.

What is more remarkable to me is to see that in December 2020, for the first time, the number of sites using WordPress passed the number of sites that were NOT using any form of content management system (CMS). I’ve been watching these measurements over many years as I’ve evaluated what CMS to use for various sites. But there was always this “None” category that meant that W3Techs could not identify a CMS being used. These could be sites using just simple web servers, or custom designed systems, or possibly CMS’s that have been customized so far that they are no longer distinguishable. (Or security people might have obfuscated the use of the CMS.)

To put it another way—there are now more sites using WordPress than custom servers.

I see this as an excellent milestone—congratulations to everyone involved in the WordPress ecosystem. The WordPress community has a mission to “democratize publishing”—to make it easy for everyone to be able to publish their information on the web using open source technologies. Just as open source technologies (ex. Apache and NGINX) are the dominant web servers used on the Internet (see the stats), the community wants to see WordPress become an open source “publishing layer” on the Internet.

As someone involved with 25+ web sites that all run on WordPress, I welcome this continued growth of the WordPress ecosystem. It means more options and less potential lock-in to closed, proprietary web systems. It will be interesting to see how far WordPress continues to grow!

  1. To be fair, this is not all the websites on the global Internet, but it’s the top 10 million sites as ranked by the Alexa and Tranco lists (read more about their methodology). I see it as a good representative sample—and the W3Techs team have been tracking this info for many years now and so there is a long history for trend data. 

By Dan York, Author and Speaker on Internet technologies - and on staff of Internet Society

Dan is the Director, Online Content, for the Internet Society but opinions posted on CircleID are his own. View more of Dan’s writing and audio here.

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Audio commentary on this topic also available Dan York  –  Jan 4, 2021 7:02 PM

If you like to listen to commentary, I also published a podcast episode back in December about the State of the Word event and WordPress’ growth.

That's an impressive number! Karl Auerbach  –  Jan 5, 2021 11:24 PM

That is an impressive number.

Did you collect any metrics reflecting what percentage of total web *visits*, rather than percentage of web *sites* that represents?

BTW, when we examined CMS systems we ended up picking Grav and Hugo mainly because they use flat-files rather than a SQL database.  We got burned with unusable backups when we were using CMS systems with a database (usually because of a mismatch between the backed-up schema and the backed-up data.)  So we made it a hard-and-fast rule that we would use a CMS that could be backed up or moved simply by tar/zipping a directory hierarchy.

(I personally use HUGO because it creates websites that have lightning-fast response, but it isn’t good for dynamic content.)

In recent years web browsers have become rather powerful abstract machines into which we can push a lot of persistent code and data.  That seems to be changing the old “dumb browser”/“smart server” paradigm into something more peer-peer.

We’ve begun to wonder if the current era of the CMS is going to be slowly replaced by a more app-based mechanism for publishing in which the browser is less of a somewhat passive view engine with content mostly structured by the CMS to something in which the browser runs a reasonably powerful app that does much of the content management in the browser itself.  We’ve been experimenting with this, first with piles of Javascript and websockets and now with node.js and Angular.

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