WordPress 2017 Year In Review: The Biggest News From Last Year

Published on January 5th, 2018

Last Updated on March 11th, 2021

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Happy new year, folks!

As the slow train that is time chugs along, we’ve slipped across the barrier into a new year.

And as we move into 2018, I thought it would be nice to take a minute and shift our gaze in the opposite direction – to revisit some of the biggest WordPress changes, trends, and developments from 2017.

So before you get too excited at the prospects of 2018, join me for a second and let’s revisit some of the good and bad from 2017!

Gutenberg Editor – Yes, Of Course This Had To Be First

the WordPress gutenberg editor

As you probably expected (and as it deserves), the WordPress Gutenberg editor sits at number one on this list.

In my time writing about WordPress, I don’t think anything has elicited as much debate as the Gutenberg editor.

Made easily accessible to the public as a plugin in June 2017, Gutenberg has been, well, stirring up emotions ever since then.

On one side, you have the vision that Gutenberg can “modernize the writing, editing, and publishing experience, with usability and simplicity in mind, benefitting both new and casual users.”

And also that Gutenberg will eventually “go beyond the post into page templates and ultimately, full site customization.”

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On the other side, you have a massive ecosystem of existing themes, plugins, and developers who are worried about things like:

  • Backwards compatibility
  • Retraining clients
  • The integration of meta boxes and other features developers have become accustomed to

After playing around with more recent editions of Gutenberg, I have noticed definite improvements, and I think it will be great for new WordPress users. But I still have big worries over the inevitable rough patch and issues that will occur when WordPress 5.0 flips the switch to move to the new editor.

What will happen? I don’t think anyone knows yet. But whatever occurs, I hope that WordPress still grows and improves like it has been since all the way back in 2003!

Two New Major WordPress Releases – 4.8 and 4.9

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two major releases that we saw in 2017.

We got WordPress 4.8 “Bill Evans” in June, followed by WordPress 4.9 “Billy Tipton” in November.

If you need a recap of what’s new, you can read this post for all the new features in WordPress 4.8, and this one for the new stuff in WordPress 4.9.

On the user-facing side, both major releases focused on improving two main areas:

  • WordPress widgets
  • The WordPress Customizer

To achieve that, we saw a bunch of new widgets drop, as well as visual editing in the text widget (and a brand new Custom HTML widget because of the issues that caused with people who’d used the text widget for code snippets).

And in WordPress 4.9, we got some major improvements to the WordPress Customizer, with the ability to save and share drafts:

WordPress Customizer drafts

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Of course, nothing that we saw in WordPress 4.8 or 4.9 will hold a candle to the big Gutenberg changes that WordPress 5.0 will bring.

WordPress And Drupal Are The Only Top-6 CMS That Grew In 2017

WordPress market share

W3Techs has long been the source of the popular statistic that “WordPress powers 2X% of the world’s websites.”

But in perusing those stats to make this list, I noticed another interesting fact:

WordPress and Drupal are the only two top-6 content management systems that grew in 2017. And of that pair, WordPress is growing faster.

At the start of the year, WordPress powered 27.3% of all websites, according to W3Techs. By the time the ball dropped on December 31st, WordPress had gobbled up even more market share, powering an impressive 29.2% of websites.

Now, it’s not all roses for us WordPress fans – Squarespace and Wix grew faster than WordPress, though their market shares are still comparatively small.

But I think it’s a great sign that of all the “legacy” content management systems, WordPress is:

  • Actually still growing (happy trails, Joomla!)
  • Growing the fastest (good on you, Drupal, for still growing, as well)

And in case you’re wondering, as impressive as Squarespace’s growth has been, Shopify was actually the hosted content management system that gobbled up the most market share in 2017, going from 0.6% to 0.9% at the end of the year, which ties its market share with the walking corpse that is Blogger.

Here’s to another year of WordPress’ growth! If trends continue, it won’t be long until we pass the 30% market share point.

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WordCamp Continues To Grow, As Well

To reinforce the growth of WordPress as a content management system, the real-world WordPress community grew as well, with WordCamp numbers up across the board.

WordCamp stats

2017 saw growth in:

  • WordCamp events – up 11.3% to 128
  • Countries – similarly up 11.6% to 48
  • Tickets sold – up 6.8% to 39,625
  • Organizers – up 33.9% to 1,008
  • Speakers – up 11.3% to 2,310

While Daan has been to some WordCamps, I still haven’t the opportunity to personally go (the flights are a little long from Vietnam!).

Still, it’s great to see the growth of the offline WordPress community to go along with WordPress’ continued growth as a content management system.

Plugin Backdoors In Previously Trusted Plugins Are A Real Concern

It wasn’t all rosy in 2017. This year also saw the popularity of some nasty backdoors in previously safe plugins at WordPress.org.

For example, in December there was a backdoor in a popular CAPTCHA plugin that affected over 300,000 different WordPress sites.

And there’s also been a nasty trend of slimy SEOs buying up existing WordPress plugins and maliciously updating those plugins to inject links in the plugin users’ sites.

plugin backdoors

Wordfence has done some great reporting on this issue and the people who are behind it.

Beyond vigilance, especially when updating plugins, I’m not sure there’s a foolproof method to protect yourself because the malicious actors are purchasing legitimate plugins to use for their illegitimate ends.

I guess the best approach is to be careful and wait a few days before updating plugins to hopefully catch potential issues before they happen.

Hopefully, tools like the Tide project can also help to protect users from malicious actions like these.

Here’s To Even More Great WordPress News In 2018

And that rounds up what I thought were some of the biggest WordPress stories from 2017.

Of course, there were also smaller changes, like a new look at the WordPress.org plugin directory, as well as some React JS drama, and the massive growth of popular WordPress page builders like Elementor.

Now over to you guys – what were your most memorable WordPress moments from 2017? And what are you most excited for in 2018?

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.