It’s been nearly a decade since WordPress was born, and in that time it’s become a true internet phenomenon: nearly 48 million websites are running WordPress – and about half of those are self hosted (the other half reside on wordpress.com). That is a huge number of websites – and as you can see by this site and dozens of other ones that we’ve designed and built on WordPress, it’s not just about blogging anymore.
Why Such a Large Reach?
This incredibly flexible and extendible application has been successful partly as a result of the equally impressive theme and plugin ecosystem that it has fostered. Through a well-documented and very powerful API library, a clear development roadmap, as well as a commitment to an open GPL license structure, developers and designers alike are able to extend WordPress to suit their needs and the changing internet marketplace.
This really is unique. If you look at other dominant ecosystems (Apple’s iPhone or Microsoft Windows, for example) there is plenty of evidence to show that more ‘developer friendly’ systems with open-source philosophies (e.g. Google’s Android or Linux) gain traction over time. Now, I could devote an entire series of posts to comparing the virtues and strengths of these great products, but the point here is that WordPress has done something right in the last 5 years, and I think that is because of a pretty great combination that allows people like me (and thousands of others around the world) to build outstanding, highly functional, and secure websites that meet the needs of our ever-changing clients:
- High quality, rigorous, and regular development of the WordPress core. You guys rock.
- A rich marketplace of free and professional themes and theme frameworks, running on free software that works (see above).
- A powerful API which allows plugin developers to extend WordPress way beyond its stated functional walls.
Since the crew at Automattic is taking care of point #1, who is leading the charge when it comes to #2 and #3? In short: some of the best and brightest minds on the web. Here is my short list, highlighting what I think are some of the unique and defining aspects of each sector. I will go into more detail about these WP leaders in upcoming posts.
- The hive approach: themeforest.com is the clear leader here.
- The cowboys: press75.com and elegantthemes.com
- The coders: StudioPress and DIYThemes (Thesis)
- The business types: Woothemes
- The narrow niche: gravityforms.com and shopplugin.net
- The free and fearless: yoast.com
- The ambitious: bravenewcode.com
So What is Our Niche?
I’m writing about plugins and themes because our team at Whiteboard Media is busy working on, well, plugins and themes. The reasons are simple: we need them for our own projects, we like to do cool stuff, and we see opportunity in the marketplace.
Currently we just released a Member Management plugin called Maven Member, which is really like putting raw meat in a pool of sharks. Our goal is to iterate and learn with the help of the WordPress community, and there is no better way to do that then in an area like member management: it’s hard to find a “one size fits all” and so the solution we’re coding really needs to perform at a high level.
In a few month we’ll be launching a new service, called SiteMavens, which will offer WordPress hosting along with a stable of professional themes and plugins that we think will make a positive contribution to the expanding needs of WordPress developers and customers.