I had an interesting conversation last week with another developer in the WordPress ecosystem. Part of that conversation involved my journey in WordPress and how WP-Members got started.
Then, today I talked to my friend Brian Gardner, who also has been around the WP world since the very early days.
All of that got me reminiscing a little bit about the early days of WordPress when the web and WP world were oh so different.
I looked back at when I started this particular blog. It was May 2005. It began as a subdomain of another site. I actually launched it to run testing on the new version of WordPress – version 1.5.
Back then, we all used things like del.icio.us and technorati.com.
In scraping through the old posts deep in the basement of this blog, I found that I started linking to the WordPress plugin repository in 2005, but I had been playing with WP for awhile at that point, since at least 2004.
It was in 2005 that I started working on a membership plugin. I was hosting a non-WordPress membership site and publishing a newsletter for commodity traders (and was working in the futures industry in Chicago). I had built a “home grown” platform for the membership site, but I liked how WordPress worked as a publishing platform and wanted to use that.
At that time, there was no such thing as a membership plugin and I needed one, so I had to build it. In fact, there was no such thing as most every “fill in name of plugin type” back then – we were all just whipping up whatever we needed because it didn’t exist yet.
The plugin repository was not wordpress.org where you can find more than 57,000 plugins. It was actually wp-plugins.net and it had about 100 plugins.
WordPress has come a long way in that time, and so have I.
I built and launched my WP-Members plugin in 2005. Scraping through archive.org, I found that it was added to the wp-plugins.net list around July 2006: https://web.archive.org/web/20060702224915/http://wp-plugins.net:80/
Notice I said wp-plugins.net “list” and not the “plugin repository.” Back in those days, we hosted our own. There was no repo. The site was just a compilation list to announce the existence of a plugin. The rest was up to you to host it.
Unfortunately, the original domain this blog and the WP-Members plugin was on was lost a few years ago, but some of it is still on archive.org. I moved the whole thing about a year later when I acquired and launched butlerblog.com in 2006.
Also lost to tech history somwhere was the first theme I created – Limelite – which actually got my WordPress career started. It was listed on several early theme lists (there was no theme repository back then, either), as well as the early iteration of the WordPress.org codex.
Through all of this, I found I was more drawn to the plugin side of things, so even though Limelite put me on the map, so-to-speak, I kind of gave up on theme design. But since we’re reminiscing, and looking at embarrassing pictures in the family photo album, it was probably about 2007 that I used Brian Gardner’s Vertigo theme as a starting point for the theme on this blog, which fortunately is not yet lost to the history’s dust bin.
It’s crazy to think about what things were like for WordPress back then. It’s even crazier to think back to how WP-Members started, that it is still going strong after all these years, and has grown organically to over 80,000 users.
I don’t think that back in 2005 I ever imagined it would go this far. In fact, I am quite sure I didn’t since I didn’t originally launch it intending to turn it into a viable business. At that time, it was just a tool for another business I had (which happened to be a membership site).
When did you get started with WordPress? What drew you in, and what keeps you going?