The two questions are linked: Why is Wordpress so popular? And what are some alternatives? Here I'll be covering answers to these questions, and in addition will also look at what this means for you: should you use Wordpress? Or not?
Wordpress is popular because there are comparatively few practical alternatives.
The short answer: Wordpress is popular because there are comparatively few practical alternatives. Note the keyword practical: there are plenty of Wordpress alternatives, but very few of them are ones that are appealing in the real world. But that really is too short of an answer, because it doesn't take into account the purpose for which you want to use Wordpress, and where many of the alternatives fall down. So let's inspect this a little more closely.
Wordpress is designed for blogging
While you can use Wordpress for other purposes (landing page, e-commerce, etc), it is designed primarily for blogging.
So let's assume the best-case scenario for you, which is that you want to use Wordpress for blogging. Why is it so popular for that purpose? The answer is that Wordpress makes it super-easy for a beginner who knows zero coding to put up a great-looking blog.
But it does have some drawbacks, even when used for its intended purpose of blogging. To name just a few, it has poor protection out-of-the-box for brute force password attacks. It lacks native support for some basic SEO, such as the meta description. Its default editor, Gutenberg, can be annoying to work with when dealing with things beyond plain text (e.g. affiliate links). Most alternatives to Wordpress do include those features out of the box. On the other hand, the functionality of Wordpress can be extended by plugins, of which there are many. So it's easily possible to overcome its disadvantages by using plugins.
The reason Wordpress is popular is its looks, not its functionality
Where Wordpress stands out from similar open-source blogging software is how it looks, not what it does. There are plenty of Wordpress alternatives out there for the beginning blogger who doesn't want to code. To name just a few, there are: Bludit, OctoberCMS, Dotclear, Serendipity, Pubvana and many many more. The drawback of most of these alternatives is a lack of modern free themes, which is basically the site skin: how it looks. No matter how well-featured the software is, if it doesn't have a decent amount of great-looking modern themes that are free then it won't be utilized. Some of the alternatives mentioned above don't even have one modern-looking theme.
Wordpress has a massive quantity of free modern themes that look absolutely superb. And site owners know that's what their readers want when they navigate to a site: a nice clean up-to-date look that's easy to navigate. No-one wants sites that look like they were made in the style of 2005. Yet that is exactly what you'll get with many of the Wordpress alternatives today.
The popularity of Wordpress continues due to momentum
Since Wordpress is by far the most popular blogging software, it continues to be popular just because so many people use it. Integrations with other services like mailers, analytics, and more, often have a custom-made easy-to-install option especially for Wordpress. That's because so many people use Wordpress that it makes financial sense for those companies to offer their services in an easy-integration mode for Wordpress sites. And that feeds into the cycle of Wordpress popularity, because bloggers are aware that there's all these services made easy to integrate for Wordpress sites but won't necessarily integrate as easily into non-Wordpress sites. There are also a lot more how-to tutorials out there for Wordpress than for anything else. So bloggers pick Wordpress. And so on (and on and on).
What does this mean for you?
Let's take a look at the significance for you. Should you use Wordpress? There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It comes down to what you want to do with your site, your level of coding expertise, and other factors.
I would still recommend Wordpress as the top choice for a beginnner to blogging. This is because you can get a Wordpress site up really, really fast. It takes care of everything for you on the back end, leaving you just dealing with the writing. Oh, and by the way, if you want to make a site that's not a blog, check out my tutorial for that. It's much easier than you might think, and you can do it all point-and-click, no coding required.
I don't use Wordpress myself for Purely Space, although I used to. I eventually decided its drawbacks far outweighed its advantages and went with ProcessWire. It allows me much more control over the site but also requires a lot more time and effort to set up, because from-scratch theme coding is necessary. I would not recommend it as a first choice for starting a site for a beginner, but if you're feeling constrained by Wordpress then ProcessWire might be right for you.
What are some good Wordpress alternatives?
If you plan on doing blogging, I can attest that I've tried a few different types of software and very few can hold a candle to Wordpress.
The only alternative I recommend for the purpose of blogging for a beginner is Bludit. Even then, Bludit lacks some features that Wordpress has (e.g. limited ability to integrate social sharing, and a very limited number of themes). Bludit is the best of a limited bunch, and its themes at least look modern. It's worth it for a smaller blog and/or if you're on a resource-constrained server, since I noticed it eats up a lot less server resources than Wordpress and still looks pretty good.
Is there a future for some of these Wordpress alternatives?
Yes there is a lot of potential for many of today's alternatives to Wordpress (not just Bludit), in my opinion. As mentioned above, Wordpress has its own pain points (poor security out of the box, poor SEO out of the box, time-consuming editor for anything other than plain text).
Most other types of blogging software handles these issues much better. Yet they fall down spectacularly when it comes to the look of the theme, and in many cases, on social sharing options. These things are one of the easiest changes that their developers could make if they were willing to. These are not huge complex under-hood changes; they're front-end changes.
Therefore software such as OctoberCMS, Dotclear, Bludit and many others, if they would simply offer a decent range of free modern themes which handle social sharing, they could get a lot more usage. I couldn't easily even find a showcase of theme options online for Serendipity or for Pubvana. A list of themes with good screenshots and preferably a demo is a must, to allow people to see these at a glance before they've installed anything. These are comparatively easy fixes that the developers of that software could make. The free modern themes need not be anywhere near a massive collection such as that of Wordpress; 15 - 30 or so really nice themes would be plenty enough to make a difference, in my opinion.
WordPress is popular because it's so widely used. In other words, it's popular because it's popular. There is a certain convenience factor to using something a lot of other people are also using. And it certainly does what it says it does: allows a beginner to create a stunning blog without needing to know any coding.
On the other hand, there is massive potential for Wordpress alternatives for a beginner's blogging software, because many such alternatives already solve the current pain points of Wordpress. The only catch is that the potential of the alternatives will not be realized until they offer an improved aesthetic appearance with a range of free modern themes.
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