Is WordPress Dying?
The odds are pretty high that if you’ve spent any significant amount of time in the world of online business, you’ve heard of WordPress at least once or twice before.
You might’ve even had it recommended to you for your business website.
For quite some time now, WordPress has been one of the simplest — and by far the most popular — platform for creating websites.
In the 15 years since its initial release, WordPress has evolved from a simple blogging platform into a full-featured content management system (or CMS) for users to easily create and edit dynamic websites.
According to W3Techs, WordPress currently powers 33 percent of all websites on the internet and commands a 60 percent market share among CMS-driven sites.
These include websites belonging to several high-profile individuals, businesses, and organizations — including the White House, the New Yorker, and the New York Times.
Given all of this, it might be surprising to think that WordPress could possibly be on the decline.
And yet it seems like every other month there’s an article published somewhere heralding the death of WordPress and/or its underlying technologies, especially PHP.
While much of this premature grave-dancing is likely due to developers’ infamous hatred of WordPress — some of which is deserved — there are still some valid points to be made by these detractors.
So let’s take a look at some of the most common (and valid) reasons given for the so-called “death” of WordPress, examining how they might prove challenging for the platform in 2019 and beyond.
The Return to Static
The advent of CMS like WordPress led to the proliferation of so-called dynamic websites, or those utilizing sever-side scripting languages like PHP to serve content from a database.
CMS-driven dynamic websites became popular because they were so simple to create and manage. But they also came along with several notable disadvantages, including performance and security issues.
These concerns have led to a renewed interest in static websites, which can now be created quickly using static site generators (like Jekyll and Gatsby) and made much more powerful through third-party APIs.
An Introduction to Static Site Generators
It’s funny how things come around full circle. Static is back in, and these new technologies are powering the shift.
While static site generators are certainly powerful and effective tools for creating modern, performant websites, they’re still far too complex for the average DIY website builder or designer.
In addition, modern tools like Webflow allow designers to create static websites coupled with lightweight content editors that allow clients to easily manage on-page content.
These solutions still fall far behind WordPress in terms of overall market penetration and are still perhaps a bit too technical for layman use.
However, they represent an extremely promising opportunity for non-developers to capitalize on this recent industry shift toward static site development — and all of the benefits associated with that trend.
Much of WordPress’s popularity and market share dominance has been due to the fact that, for most of its existence, it was the simplest solution for quickly getting a website up and running.
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These all-in-one solutions are geared toward absolute beginners — those with little to no previous web design or development experience.
So while they might be more restricted than WordPress in terms of design and functionality, they also feature much shorter learning curves and much less of a headache for non-tech-savvy users.
As a result, both Squarespace and Wix have begun to slowly chip away at the “low end” of the WordPress client base — personal users and micro-business owners.
This leaves WordPress occupying an awkward sliver of the market.
With the exception of blogs and other content-driven websites — which is what WordPress was actually created to manage — WordPress is no longer the go-to solution for many (perhaps most) projects.
Those users in need of a simple, no-fuss website for personal use can easily and affordably create one themselves using a template-based tool like Squarespace or Wix.
Meanwhile, those in need of more robust or performant solutions (such as business owners) would be better off hiring an experienced developer to create a custom website or application.
Reliance on Aging Technologies
Just as WordPress is no longer the “default” or ubiquitous solution that it once was … its underlying language PHP is no longer the prevalent back-end scripting technology it used to be.
These technologies have the advantage of streamlining the development process — as one scripting language can be used across the entire development stack — while improving scalability and performance.
And though PHP has come a long way since its first release in 1994, it is beginning to fall out of fashion.
In fact, according to Stack Overflow’s most recent survey of popular web technologies, PHP ranked ninth among programming, scripting, and markup languages.
And for good reason.
Both of which currently enjoy more popularity among professional developers, according to the same Stack Overflow survey.
Despite what the naysayers may write, WordPress is decidedly not dead — nor is it dying.
The platform continues to dominate the web in terms of market share, and it shows no signs of slowing down or being meaningfully overtaken by one of its competitors.
Nevertheless, WordPress faces a number of significant challenges that might threaten its market dominance at some point in the future.
It’s no secret that technology, especially on the web, changes at a rapid clip.
Successful developers need to be prepared to pivot along with changing industry trends — whether that trend happens to be WordPress, static, PHP-driven, Node-based, or something else entirely.