WordPress Grows Up with 3.0: Review

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WordPress 3.0 is more powerful and flexible than previous versions, but has lost some of the simplicity that made it popular in the first place

WordPress became popular by making it as simple as possible to publish a personal blog. Along the way, the project has become a hit, not only with personal bloggers, but with publishers as well. WordPress 3.0 comes to terms with its new audience by adding features that are better suited to content management systems than personal Weblogs. The question for most users is whether WordPress 3.0 can scale to handle the big dogs while still retaining the simplicity for single-user blogs that has fueled WordPress growth since its inception in 2003.

Version 3.0 offers a powerful platform and the flexibility to extend the platform, but the new features will probably take a few releases to be well-integrated with the platform and UI (user interface). The multi-user features of WordPress 3.0 require some under-the-hood tweaking and a bit more admin elbow grease than usual for WordPress features. It’s not rocket science, but setting up multi-users takes a bit more wrangling than WordPress users might be expecting. Likewise, the custom post features are not trivial to implement. The good news is that the complexity is related to features that won’t mar the experience for personal bloggers.

Most WordPress users won’t see much of a difference in 3.0. The new default theme is much nicer than the previous defaults, and it’s nice to be able to customise the header easily through the UI. Aside from that, most of the appeal of WordPress 3.0 is aimed at developers and organisations that want to customise the platform and/or scale it to handle a bunch of sites. WordPress still isn’t quite on par with Drupal or Joomla as a CMS (content management system), but it seems to be headed in that direction quickly.

All in all, WordPress 3.0 is a decent upgrade. The multisite features merged into the main release justify the version bump, but for most users it’s business as usual. What should be interesting is seeing how the multisite features push the evolution of WordPress in the long term.

Testing WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0 is simple to install or upgrade from a previous release. The easiest way to upgrade is to use the Updates menu from the WordPress Dashboard. I tested WordPress 3.0 during the release candidate phase, so this option wasn’t available—though you can install a beta tester plug-in that makes it simple to do upgrades via the Dashboard. Upgrading makes some database changes, so it’s not clear whether reverting to pre-3.0 would be supported. Of course, any good admin would be sure to make a backup of the database before proceeding.

Installation from scratch is also simple. It requires a MySQL database and the ability to unzip a file and walk through a web-based installation. It’s taken seven years, but it’s finally possible to pick the admin username and password when setting up a brand-new WordPress blog. Prior releases automatically chose the admin username and generated a random password, which was a slight security issue because attackers could count on every WordPress blog having an “admin” user.

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