How WordPress is democratizing publishing all over the world

Posted at 06/09/14 6:40 PM

Matt Mullenweg

MANILA - What do the websites of New York Times, CNN and the Philippine government (gov.ph) have in common?

They're all powered by WordPress, the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world.

Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress and founder of Automattic, is hoping that at least 50 percent of all websites in the world will be powered by WordPress in the next decade.

"We're now up to 22 percent of all websites and still growing that pretty aggressively. A manifestation of our mission is to get a majority of websites in the world on open-source software... The way we grew the past year, it would take 9 to 10 years (to get to 50 percent) but we're hoping we can do that much sooner," Mullenweg told ABS-CBNnews.com in an interview at Globe Tower in Bonifacio Global City, Monday.

Mullenweg was a student at the University of Houston when he started Wordpress in 2003 with Mike Little. As a blogger, he was dissatisfied with the publishing tools available then.

"I was just blogging myself and I felt the software could be better. It was just making something that I wanted to use. That's what we do today," he said.

He dropped out of college to join CNET, and went on to start Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, Polldaddy, among others.

Now, WordPress is 11 years old and continues to grow. It now has 235 employees all over the world, and has just hired its first employee in the Philippines.

Mullenweg is very passionate about spreading the philosophy of WordPress, which is why he is on an "Asian summer tour" to meet bloggers, developers and designers.

"First and foremost, the mission of WordPress is to democratize publishing. We want to provide equality of opportunity for anyone in the world, regardless of what language they speak, what country they live in, or how much money they have, to have a voice online, to be able to publish," he said.

Mullenweg is in the country for the WordPress Community Meet-up. This is his third trip to the Philippines, which was one of the first countries to adopt WordPress.

"The Philippines has always been an early adopter of WordPress because of the English fluency... But I still think it could be a lot more, and that's part of why I'm here... I do feel like many more people could benefit from using WordPress and the flexibility and freedom that the software provides for free or a low price," he said.

Mobile first

While WordPress may have initially started as a blogging tool, now it can be used as a full content management system. People can use it for blogging, e-commerce, small business sites, or almost any website.

Many are now shifting to WordPress for their CMS, and Mullenweg hopes more will do the same.

"If the decisions are being made by a CTO somewhere who's spending $10 million, they're probably not going to use WordPress. But at the point where folks are coming out and saying: 'hey, this thing I use for free on my personal site works better than this thing that we spent millions of dollars on.' That's when the tide starts to shift. That probably happened first in the US but we see the same thing happening in Germany, Korea," he said.

With more traffic coming from mobile, WordPress is also beefing up its social and mobile aspects.

"One is the JetPack plugin. It's really powerful and it makes your blog faster, more social and connected... Another is mobile apps. Over the next two years, we're investing a ton on making the mobile experience rich and really beautiful. Everything we develop, we do it 'mobile first' now," he said.

Asked what he thinks is the secret to WordPress' continued success, Mullenweg answered, "Community. It really comes back to the people."

"WordPress is not just a company or a product, it's a movement. There's hundreds of thousands of people who are making their living from the software, thousands of people who contribute to make the software, it's a product of all of us. It doesn't belong to me anymore that Wikipedia belongs to Jimmy Wales... It's the product of a lot of talented people working together," he said.