Houston Expertise Changes The World, One Website At A Time

A mere 15 years ago, websites were either custom designed, static, and managed by ad agencies or marketing firms or simple template affairs that allowed some limited user involvement in content creation and design. Meanwhile, blogs offered the best opportunities for self-publishing. Today, WordPress, which started as a blogging software that grew out of another blogging tool called CafeLog or b2, is a dominant content management system used by more than 75 million websites that has changed the way websites are envisoned, created, and managed. While the headquarters of WordPress are in San Francisco, the software was created by native Houstonian Matt Mullenweg who retains a strong connection to his hometown.

The Quick Rise Of WordPress

Trained as a musician, Matt Mullenweg also loved to build websites, which he did for many musicians in Houston. Although he went off to the University of Houston, he dropped out after an exciting freshman year wherein he and Mike Little, an associate he met online, created WordPress. Mullenweg and Little used CafeLog, but found the lack of support disappointing. The original developer, the Frenchmen Michel Valdrighi, published under a GNU GPL, allowed Mullenweg and Little to improve the software that became WordPress. He left the team in 2005. WordPress is a successor to b2/cafe log, another product known as b2evolution remains in development.

The effort scored Mullenweg a job at CNet in San Francisco. Within a year, he left CNet to work on his software full time and start the company Automattic, the developer of WordPress and other software.

The WordPress Difference

The first releases of WordPress enhanced its reputation as a blogging platform, but it has evolved into the most popular open source content management system in the world. Based on PHP, its pages were generated from a MySQL database rather than static web content. WordPress quickly gained popularity as it was scalable for use for creating a single blog or and major enterprise. Very responsive to criticism of its users, software evolved and changed to become indispensable. Its major features include:

  • Installation on a web server such as wordpress.com or usingwordpress.org software that host it. The .org version is free, while the user only pays for hosting on the .com version.
  • A web template system that uses a template processor and employs front controller architecture get rich non-static URLs to a single PHP file and identifies the target page. The search engine friendly system also supports human readable permalinks or easy to type and remember URLs  
  • A plugin architecture and template system that supports many types of web content including online stores, media galleries, mailing list, and forums. The features that display information, manage content, and increase functionality are made possible through an extensive series of plugins offered by WordPress or third-party developers.
  • A series of themes that keep the core code and site content intact while allowing users to change the look and functionality of a website with free, premium, or custom design themes. To meet WordPress standards, each theme must have structured PHP, valid HTML, and cascading style sheets (CSS).
  • Customization through a series of action and filter hooks that allow you to attach your custom code to activate during WordPress processing.

Since its inception, WordPress has released several major updates and dozens of minor updates to add and refine features, improve security, and fix bugs. The software has remained user-friendly and accessible, with a Houston feel. Users get a great big Texas welcome as “Howdy, (your name)” appears when they first open the dashboard.

The Growing Success Of WordPress

WordPress immediately expanded the base of 2,000 users to today’s audience of 409 million people who view over 23.6 billion pages each month. Users create over 69.5 posts per month and make more than 46.8 million new comments. WordPress powers 25% of the world’s website and its domination continues – a phenomenon that Forbes.com calls “gradually eating the internet” as its influence and dominance continues to increase. “Its rich ecosystem of connectivity and integration” suggest a continuous acceleration of growth.

WordPress Powers more than half of the CMS market share; its nearest competitors Drupal and Joomla! have a combined market share of 13%. Major companies such as UPS, Blackberry, MTV, and even publishers like Conde Nast and News International  rely on WordPress for websites, while others such as CNN, CBS, BBC, Reuters, Sony, Fortune.com, and Volkswagen use it for blogging. Even Microsoft partners with WordPress for blogging.

Back To Houston

While WordPress set up shop in San Francisco, Mulleweg kept his focus on his hometown of Houston and returned there to live after 8 years. As he puts it, “I found I could get a lot of the benefits of San Francisco being there a few times a year, and I didn’t feel like I needed to be there every day, I missed my family and my friends and everything in Houston.” >As the majority of the nearly 500 people that work for WordPress worldwide both often work from home, Mulleweg does the same and travels to San Francisco , New York, and other crucial locations when needed – to the tune of over 400,000 air miles per year. What keeps the company on the move is a commitment to “relentless improvement” not physical proximity.

When asked about his loyalty to Houston, Mulleweg gives high praise to his supportive parents, to his quality education in Houston public schools, and to the dedicated public servants – the police, the fire men, the teachers, who keep the city going. He values having a cosmopolitan group of friends in the “melting pot or gumbo of Houston.” He sees his hometown as the model for the generosity embodied in creating open source code and in giving back to community non-profit. While he has received accolades for his business achievements, he remains positive and friendly with a fancier car as one the few trappings of success he affords himself.

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